Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Just in Case
How I Live Now

by Meg Rosoff

I am an Anglophile. I read young adult fiction. I love Meg Rosoff!

The main character in How I Live Now is a 15- or 16-year-old girl with an eating disorder (which I totally don't remember, but it's in the subject headings) who leaves New York to stay with her auntie and cousins in England. Some sort of unspecified terrorist attack or outbreak of war leaves the kids home alone and auntie stuck wherever she went on some kind of business trip or something. So there's a bit of Swiss Family Robinson element, with the kids trying to feed themselves from the garden and survive without electricity; some Lord of the Flies conflict among them, and some bad stuff that goes down when they leave the relative safety of home to try to find out what's happening only to encounter a band of crazy Mad Max types gone nuts in the seeming apocalypse; and a dash of Blue Lagoon romance. (The anorexic girl bangs her slightly younger cousin, which caused a bit of a stir when the book won the Printz award in 2005, because technically it's incest or something, but, like, whatever, they're cousins, who cares?)

[a few hours later...] Looking back at what I wrote, it doesn't sound like a good book. I don't know why I compared it to so many books/movies when it isn't even very much like any of them. I guess it's hard to explain why it's good. The story is told in retrospect and concludes with the narrator/protagonist returning to see her cousin who was scarred — literally and figuratively — by the same experience from which she emerged more or less unscathed. I don't know what else to say, except that I really liked this book. It's relatively short, so it'd be a good one for teens not that into reading. The shortness also lends itself well to urgent book report needs, and the whole terrorism/apocalypse theme should make it that much easier.

Just in Case is also pretty good. It's a similar teen-friendly length and tells the story of a 15-year-old boy who changes his name and his image in order to try to escape Fate. Not just lower-case fate, and more than his fate per se, because Fate is a character in the book. It's a bizarre conceit to have Fate interjecting threats and heckles here and there, and it's a little annoying, but not too bad because there isn't that much of it. Much more effective and interesting are the parts of the story narrated by Justin's pre-verbal toddler brother, wise beyond his years in a very Zen sort of way. His parents are useless and nearly absent in the way parents often are in young adult books, but Justin gets by with a little help from his friends. More proof that teenagers are temporarily insane.

No comments: