“how i live now” by Meg Rosoff

How I Live Now Book Cover How I Live Now
Meg Rosoff
Juvenile Fiction
Wendy Lamb Books
2004-11-30
ebook
194
Overdrive

2005 Michael L. Printz Award Winner

“Every war has turning points and every person too.” Fifteen-year-old Daisy is sent from Manhattan to England to visit her aunt and cousins she’s never met: three boys near her age, and their little sister. Her aunt goes away on business soon after Daisy arrives. The next day bombs go off as London is attacked and occupied by an unnamed enemy. As power fails, and systems fail, the farm becomes more isolated. Despite the war, it’s a kind of Eden, with no adults in charge and no rules, a place where Daisy’s uncanny bond with her cousins grows into something rare and extraordinary. But the war is everywhere, and Daisy and her cousins must lead each other into a world that is unknown in the scariest, most elemental way. A riveting and astonishing story.

This one started off a little rough for me — run-on sentences, fragments, a young teen just spilling her guts on the page. I was worried it was going to be a slog to get through an entire novel like that. Luckily, though, after awhile, my awareness of the style (which, I later figured out was purposeful, of course…) slipped away. I got drawn in to Daisy’s story and couldn’t put it down.

Eventually, as Daisy is forced to grow up, her voice matured (as voices tend to do, I guess). And at the end, when it switches to a number of years later, the “voice” was completely grown up.

The premise of the book was fascinating. There is a war going on, and Daisy and her cousins (that she’s just been sent to live with) are left without adult supervision. But at the time and even later, when Daisy is grown up, it is never clear who the enemy was. Or why they were fighting. Or what they wanted. Or even for sure how it all ended.

In some ways, that’s what made it all the scarier for me. How often do you hear stuff on the news and come away wondering if you ever really understand why this or that is happening and what it really  means to you, personally? I know I often listen to then news and hear Charlie Brown’s Teacher. I know they are saying words, but it doesn’t seem to be anything that makes actual sense.

Some reviews were unhappy with or offended by the relationship between Daisy and her first cousin Edmund. My first reaction to those reviewers was ….. good grief….get off your high horse…….On reflection, though, it’s not my place to judge what squicks out another reader.  My problem with those readers would only come if they then try to use that opinion to keep others from reading.

Repeat after me: “not for me doesn’t equal this is bad.”

Personally, I didn’t find their relationship problematic. I’m not sure I can picture anyone I know falling for their first cousin, but I know that it isn’t completely unusual. These first cousins are teenagers when they first meet and who are thrown together in extremely unusual circumstances. And nothing is explicit on the page, this is YA after all.

And really, their relationship informed the whole story. For me, it worked. Even now, several days after I read it, I’m still thinking about Daisy and Edmund as characters, as well as the actual mechanics of how this was written, the style shift I mention above. The more I think about this one, the more I’m glad this project gave me the chance to read it.

“Airborn” by Kenneth Oppel

Airborn Book Cover Airborn
Kenneth Oppel
Juvenile Fiction
Harper Collins
2004-05-11
Hardcover
368
library

2005 Michael L. Printz Honor Book

Sailing toward dawn, and I was perched atop the crow's nest, being the ship's eyes. We were two nights out of Sydney, and there'd been no weather to speak of so far. I was keeping watch on a dark stack of nimbus clouds off to the northwest, but we were leaving it far behind, and it looked to be smooth going all the way back to Lionsgate City. Like riding a cloud. . . .

Matt Cruse is a cabin boy on the Aurora, a huge airship that sails hundreds of feet above the ocean, ferrying wealthy passengers from city to city. It is the life Matt's always wanted; convinced he's lighter than air, he imagines himself as buoyant as the hydrium gas that powers his ship. One night he meets a dying balloonist who speaks of beautiful creatures drifting through the skies. It is only after Matt meets the balloonist's granddaughter that he realizes that the man's ravings may, in fact, have been true, and that the creatures are completely real and utterly mysterious.

In a swashbuckling adventure reminiscent of Jules Verne and Robert Louis Stevenson, Kenneth Oppel, author of the best-selling Silverwing trilogy, creates an imagined world in which the air is populated by transcontinental voyagers, pirates, and beings never before dreamed of by the humans who sail the skies.

After 23 books, we finally reach the first of the Printz honored books that I have read before. It’s been awhile, I remember checking it out from the town library a number of years ago, and had loved it then. I have also read and enjoyed it’s sequels.

I read so many books, though, that I often don’t remember specifics about a particular book. As I began to reread, some of the details came back, although partway through I realized that I was mentally confusing it with another steampunk series by a completely different author. (I was expecting certain things to happen and then realized no, wait, that was in Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld — another series that I thoroughly enjoyed…)

I’m a big fan of books that reimagine what our world would be like with different technology. In this case, our main character, Matt Cruse, is a cabin boy aboard a massive airship. Cruse is clearly destined for greater things, and has to contend with pirates, shipwrecks, never before recorded flying creatures. The book is fast-paced with tons of exciting adventure.

He is paired with a wealthy young passenger, Kate, who is a great “Mighty Girl” character. She is smart and independent and not at all happy with the restrictions her society is trying to place on her as “just a girl” who should content herself with doing “ladylike things.” She’d much rather emulate her grandfather and have adventures and discover new things.

I enjoyed this book the first time, and I was glad to see that it held up to a reread and was just as good the second time.

2004 Printz Project Wrap-Up Post

I thought I was going crazy and imagining that all of the books were set in New York City — but as I was writing up these posts, I realized I wasn’t wrong. Three out of the five honored books this year were specifically set in New York City. A fourth was in an unnamed urban location, that could very well have been NYC, and while the fifth was historical: it was set in upstate New York, and throughout the book, the main character is dreaming of going to college in New York City.

That fifth book, A Northern Light, was far and away my favorite of this year’s honorees. I had mixed feelings about all of the other books, and while I didn’t actively hate any of them, they definitely won’t be anywhere near the top of my all time favorite Printz books. Which, it just occurs to me, I’ll have to do eventually. A massive wrap-up of everything.

I’ve now read 23 of the 77 books on my list. I wondered if I was going to be able to keep this up, and so far, so good. I’m sure I’ve said before that I’m reading a lot more diversely than normal, which has been a positive experience. I’m really fascinated that I have enjoyed the verse novels as much I have.

On to 2005!

“The First Part Last” by Angela Johnson

The First Part Last Book Cover The First Part Last
Angela Johnson
Juvenile Fiction
Simon and Schuster
2005-01-01 (first published 2003)
ebook
144
Oyster

2004 Michael L Printz Award Winner

 

Bobby's carefree teenage life changes forever when he becomes a father and must care for his adored baby daughter.

While I enjoyed the characterization of a young teenage father I thought the tragic part of this was way over the top. When I got done, I felt like I had been manipulated and didn’t care for that.

The chapters alternate between the present and the past, and while it was obviously something was wrong in the present, we didn’t get to know what that was until the end, and when you do find out. UGH. Too much.

I will say, that talking about how his life as a teenage father was well done — and it was great that he was in love with his daughter and took the best care of her he could — which was occasionally short of the mark. But how could it have been otherwise? He was still just a kid himself.

New York City alert: Seriously. Another one. (Not that I’m complaining, but there’s a trend here……)

“The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things” by Carolyn Mackler

The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things Book Cover The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things
Carolyn Mackler
Juvenile Fiction
Candlewick Press
2011-05-10
256

Fifteen-year-old Virginia Shreves has a larger-than-average body and a plus-size inferiority complex, especially when she compares herself to her slim, brilliant, picture-perfect family. But that's before a shocking phone call - and a horrifying allegation - about her rugby-star brother changes everything. With irreverent humor and surprising gravity, Carolyn Mackler creates an endearingly blunt heroine who speaks to every teen who struggles with family expectations, and proves that the most impressive achievement is to be true to yourself.

I was worried, based on the title, that this was going to be like Angus, Thongs and Full Frontal Snogging, but thankfully it was so much better. It had a lot more emotional depth and punch, and the crisis was much weightier. It wasn’t perfect, I’m not sure how you write a book about a girl with body issues and not have it hit the wrong note for someone.

And for as much self-hate as Virginia expressed for most of the book, I thought it ended up wrapping up a bit too neatly.

I’d also like to point out, that I’m not crazy about the whole “all of these books are set in NYC” thing — this one was too!

Spoilers below:

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The description references a shocking revelation about her older brother: he is accused of date-rape and is sent home from college. I thought it was interesting to see how this affected not only Virginia, but also her parents. Personally, I thought it was well-handled, and did a nice job of showing how sexual assault affects more than just the principals. I had never really thought about what it must be like for the family of someone accused of a crime like this. As you can imagine, their emotions ran the gamut, and even now I get a little bit of a knot in my stomach thinking about how I might cope in a similar situation. Probably not as well as I might hope.