Study Guide

Piper in How I Live Now

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Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice

Piper's the kind of girl who "always throws fish back" (1.5.6) and is "so good and pure that when she was confused about what was going on she just stood and stared at your face until you either told her the truth or ran away and hid" (1.10.7). What a fun superpower to have: disarming innocence.

While this is good for all the fishes in the deep blue sea, it also allows her to get away with things like giving the "Family Stare, the one that normal people don't ever do because it might be considered impolite to crash around in another person's innermost thoughts" (1.13.5). In case you don't yet have a visual for this girl, she sometimes does things like come "over with both hands full of petals and threw them up in the air […] and said For Love" (1.13.16) or makes "wreaths of poppies and daisies to decorate" (1.13.17) a baby goat's horns.

Piper, in short, is a sweet little flower child—and when we say child, we mean it, since the kid is only nine years old.

A Magnet for Love

It's impossible not to love a girl who says things like: "I always wanted a sister and if I had one I would want her to be like you" (1.16.14). That's the kind of stuff that melts the hearts of even the most jaded of New York City teenagers, not to mention the entire British Army, who like to lurk around with "moony expressions watching Piper […] and you could tell most of them felt happy just being near her" (1.19.16). This girl's kindness is practically contagious, it seems.

Before you vomit from sugar overload, though, it's important to note that, for her part, "Piper acted like she didn't even notice the attention but I could tell she liked the way everyone asked her serious questions […] and treated her like something special" (1.19.17). So as much as Piper's sweet and disarming and all that good stuff, her innocence is undermined a bit by the fact that, thanks to Daisy, we know Piper's more self-aware than she lets on and, to some degree, her sweet-little-girl schtick is an act to get people to like her.

Growing Up Too Soon

Plus, let's not forget that this book takes place during wartime, and when the war comes knocking, it kind of does a number on Piper and her sweet, pure innocence. So much so, in fact, that when she loses her dog, she "didn't even cry, but just sat there looking completely blank" (1.21.11). Not exactly the response of someone who doesn't understand the terribleness of the world around her, now is it? Nope—here we see Piper becoming jaded in her expectations.

This kid also proves her utility as a survivalist. Daisy notes: "I was lucky that Piper was my faithful companion just then because I wouldn't have recognized a hazelnut if it tapped me on the shoulder" (1.23.32). But lest you think she'd ever totally abandon her flower child roots, she still does things like "picking flowers to put in our new home like we were going to stay there for years" (1.23.31). To be clear, by "new home" Daisy is referring to the little plot of land where they are going to spend one night during their trek to their actual home.

Post-war, Piper's grown up and now takes care of her family and has fallen in love; she wants to become a doctor. Daisy tries "to connect her with the little girl I knew" (2.3.4), but wartime's caused that little girl to grow up, at the young age of fifteen. She may be young in years, but the little girl Daisy met all those years earlier is long gone.

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