What a deeply odd little book this is.
Daisy (normally a nickname for Margaret/Meg
, not Elizabeth. Just saying, Meg Rosoff) is an introspective narrator, but utterly disconnected from the world outside her own head as the book begins. Not only is she willfully ignorant of any specifics of the impending WWIII, but she is estranged from her widowed father, has developed full-blown anorexia born out of her refusal to eat her new step-mother's food, and is being separated from her sole named friend and sent to live with her aunt and four cousins.
Her aunt, already constantly occupied with some kind of unspecified work for the pacifist cause, promptly absents herself altogether to a conference in Norway from which she will never return, having fulfilled her only purpose in Daisy's life by sharing some photos and memories of her mother. Thereafter, her every need, physical, emotional, and yes, sexual, is satisfied by her preternatural cousins, particularly Piper, the nine-year-old mother-child who serves tea and cooks austerity rations and always clings to Daisy's hand, and Edmund, the 14-year-old puppy-eyed chain-smoking Jeep driver who attracts Daisy instantly and falls effortlessly into complete infatuation with her.
These cousins are unnatural beings. They exist only to make Daisy deliriously happy, so that when the war finally intervenes and splits the cousins up, she can finally be sad about it. (She's very offhand about thousands of people dying in bombings in London as long as she's still alternately cuddling Piper and banging Edmund.)
I don't want to sound like I'm too down on poor Daisy, because her voice is what makes the book worth reading, even when the situation is something I wouldn't buy off the clearance rack. She's interesting. She's selfish and self-absorbed, but she's introspective enough to know it, and she changes, even if it takes both a world war and a set of angel cousins to accomplish it.
Any and all specifics about the supposed war are carefully shielded from the reader, presumably to keep the book from being incredibly dated in a few years, but frankly it's taken to a point that I find completely ridiculous. There's a ground invasion of the British Isles, which would logistically require a navy or an air force, and yet no one even knows who they are and the French are actually put forth as a suggestion??? (By an elderly rumormonger in an isolated village, but still! This is the only concrete geopolitical namecheck in the entire book!) Seriously?!
Still, I'm not denying that it's a decent read, and the heightened emotional bond among the cousins is exactly the sort of thing that makes it YA catnip. I suspect a lot of people who like this book really, really
like it, if for whatever reason that is exactly what they need to read at that moment.