Book and film review | How I Live Now

Surprise, surprise, I've known this book for a very long while. I read in back in 2008, when me and my family went to England on holiday and my sister bought the beautiful Penguin edition and soon after, I read it and adored it ever since, and last year, the film came out, which I was very excited about... but then I forgot about it and so, I've only seen it this weekend and here are my thoughts on both the book and the film.

How I Live Now is a post-apocalyptic, distopian (ish) YA novel, published all the way back in 2004 by Penguin (which is also the edition that I have) and it's by the British-American author Meg Rosoff, who's also written other books like Just in Case (which I also quite enjoyed), What I Was and Picture Me Gone. She writes mostly YA lit, but with being someone who's read quite a bit of that, I can definitely say that her books are original, they are really well written and really enjoyable and just one of the better YA books available at the moment.

The story follows a young, 15-year-old girl called Elizabeth, who presents herself by the name Daisy. She lives in a sort-of modern day world, but with terrorist attacks raging on all over the world. For her own safety, she's sent away from New York to her aunt and cousins in the countryside of England. They're a peculiar family; their mother is constantly away, because she is a peace fighter/negotiator/something like that and the children are left to run the household by themselves. They have to cook for themselves, keep themselves entertained and take care of the house.
As they live in constant fear of what's going to happen, Daisy grows attached to the whole family, especially Edmond, who is a year younger than her and happens to be her cousin. You'll soon realise why that's wrong, because I'll get to it in a second. When the war breaks out, her aunt is killed and then, they are separated; Daisy is sent to a foster family with her cousin Piper and the boys are sent on their way. This is the story of how they escaped almost certain death and found each other again.

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*insert River Song gif: Spoilers!*

The book is a very easy one to follow; it's not long, the language isn't complicated and even though it talks about pretty darn serious things and describes absolutely fucking terrifying scenes, it was so easy to understand and paint that particular scene in your head and I loved it. You might find it annoying that in the first half of the book, the dialogues aren't in any quotation marks; at first it was slightly annoying, but you get used to it. It's a very quick read, but it still gives you loads to think about and I think that it's a definite must read for everyone, really.
Just one teeny question... did he have to be her cousin? Like, couldn't have it been a third one, because then, you're practically not related anymore. It's a bit... off-putting, but you still ship them.

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In the first... third of the film, I wasn't that impressed with it, to be honest. Daisy was so much different from what I expected her to be; she was spoiled (well, I knew that bit from the book, but it was very exaggerated in this film), she was very teenagery, I didn't expect her to be so grungy and rock'n'roll-ish... and yet, it all made sense. Even though her interpretation was a lot more different, Saoirse Ronan's performance was absolutely stunning and just... freaking brilliant. You don't see a performance this strong from any of the actresses older than her, let alone her age (if you've seen her in Atonement and The Lovely Bones, you'll know her skills). Although everyone elses' acting was also really good and I loved it. It was really nice seeing Peter Pan again...
I liked how the film was shot; there were plenty of hipstery, out-of-focus shots and it really captured the mood of the world at war; there were loads of happy moments (like the one in the barn), but then they quickly turned scary and completely serious (like the soldiers attacking them). (Katherine's notes: Somehow, I'm starting to pay attention to the way the films are filmed and edited and stuff (like, the production side of films) and I think it makes reviews a lot better. What do you think? Let me know!)

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I liked the way the relationship between siblings was made; how Edmond treated Piper and how she grew stronger towards the end, how Daisy became stronger and getting out of her anxiety problems. That's something I call character development.
At the end, we all know that when the love of her life comes home, he doesn't speak. He has loads of burns and scars and nobody knows, what exactly happened to him. I am really glad that they kept that in the film, because it would be very easy to replace it and just change it with a scene where they jump into each other's arms and make out whilst standing in front of a sunset. It would be very easy to do that and they didn't and I'm really happy because of that. Also, they kept in the gardening bit and the "how I live now" bit. Halle-freaking-lujah!
Perhaps two things that I disliked about the film... dropping the f-bomb or the shit bomb in every sentence will not make you appeal to the younger audience and I immediately noticed that... they missed out a character, Edmond's twin brother Osbert, but he didn't have such a big role in the book or in the development of the plot, so it doesn't really matter, but I immediately noticed that and had a bit of a seizure, but it's fine.
And the soundtrack was amazing. Period.

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It's not a film that will change your life; it's not a book that will change your opinion on everything, but... they're both pretty darn good and definitely worth a watch if you wish to see it and if you have the time. It's definitely a great film for YA fans and I believe that it will make them realise that the YA lit they've been reading for their entire life is actually shit and this is where the good stuff begins. It's a film for laughter and tears, which is what we all need from books, don't we?

So, both the book and the film get a 4/5, because they are both definitely good and deserve a bit more attention than they already have. The film started off very bleak, but the last half made up for it.

I hope you've enjoyed this little blog post! I have a lot more coming up, since I'M FREE OF EXAMS, FINALLY! It's the end of my freshman year of high school and I couldn't be happier, so from now on, expect more regular blog updates and possibly, better quality. I shall see you soon!
xxx Katherine


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