Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Future of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler

The Future of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler
November 21, 2011; Razorbill


Summary

It's 1996, and Josh and Emma have been neighbors their whole lives. They've been best friends almost as long - at least, up until last November, when Josh did something that changed everything. Things have been weird between them ever since, but when Josh's family gets a free AOL CD in the mail,his mom makes him bring it over so that Emma can install it on her new computer. When they sign on, they're automatically logged onto their Facebook pages. But Facebook hasn't been invented yet. And they're looking at themselves fifteen years in the future.

By refreshing their pages, they learn that making different decisions now will affect the outcome of their lives later. And as they grapple with the ups and downs of what their futures hold, they're forced to confront what they're doing right - and wrong - in the present.(courtesy of Goodreads)

Review

What year were you born? Your reaction to The Future of Us will likely vary widely based on your age. Josh and Emma, the main characters in this novel were born in 1979 or 1980. I was born in late 1981. The book is set in 1996, the year I finished 9th grade and started 10th grade. The Future of Us was pure nostalgic joy.

If you were born post 1990, I don't know whether you'd enjoy this book nearly as much. Just like I wouldn't fully appreciate a book full of 1980s nostalgia, I don't think the 1990s throwbacks will mean as much if you're older. And that's such a big selling point of this book.

I sit here typing in the kitchen on my slim laptop with my super speedy cable modem and wireless router, but I can hear perfectly the "Ssssshhhhhhh" of my old 14.4 dial up modem, how it would suddenly shift to "Hhhheeeeee," and then briefly lapse into silence before the cheery robotic male voice quips "Welcome. You've got mail!" The wonders of the early Internet are permanently etched into my mind. I'd forgotten about the old AOL CDs (Did anyone have Prodigy? We only had it for a few months, but I loved it). The Future of Us reminded me of so many parts of my youth: rollerblades, pay phones, the music, YM magazine, and more.

The problem with The Future of Us is that the nostalgia is better than the story. The idea of two teens discovering their future selves on Facebook is fantastic. What teen hasn't wondered what their lives would be like in 15 years? What 30 year old hasn't wished they could go back and have a chat/lecture with their teen selves? In addition to the Facebook concept, The Future of Us is about a fractured friendship between Josh and Emma, Emma's dating life, Josh's love for Emma and embarrassment about being dissed by her, and more. It's not actually an overly ambitious plot, but it still managed to feel like the authors tried to do too much and ended up not fully developing anything.

The concept of the future is great in The Future of Us. It's always changing. Deciding to go to college in one state versus another changes who you might marry, what you study, etc. Emma figures this out quickly and it was both fun and frustrating to see how her life changed as she manipulated the present to change the future.

I loved Josh. He's a nice guy. I like how he interacted with the future. Emma on the other hand is much harder to like. She constantly wants something better. When she sees that her future life appears to be imperfect (as far as you can tell from a Facebook status), she's determined to change it. And then change it again when the new future isn't good enough. Nothing can ever satisfy her. What a surprise that her future self is also unsatisfied? I don't always mind unlikable characters, especially because I can see the world through their eyes in the story. Despite "understanding" Emma, I couldn't like her. She was too whiny.

In the end, The Future of Us left a lot of unanswered questions. I'm all for open endings, but this felt more like the authors gave up. Well, not exactly, but there are good open endings and frustrating open endings. This fell into the latter category. I wanted to know more about Josh and Emma's future lives. I wanted to see how their present actions affected their future more than I did. I also wanted more access to their Facebook pages. The status updates were too infrequent for my taste.

If you're looking for a 1990s road trip, you must pick up The Future of Us. If you're picking up the book expecting a book as fabulous as Thirteen Reasons Why, don't bother (horror of horrors - I still have not read this iconic novel!). From what I know of Thirteens Reasons Why, this is entirely different. The Future of Us is an imperfect book, but I loved the concept and the memories it brought up.

Rating: 3 / 5

27 comments:

  1. I didn't like Thirteen Reasons Why as most people did. I might still give this one a shot though. Thanks for the honest review :)

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  2. Sounds really interesting. I was born in '94 so I don't know if it'd appeal to me too much in that sense lol. Thanks for the review!

    Steph: Short and Sweet

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  3. I am so glad you enjoyed this! Like you I was born in the early 80s so reading this book bought back memories of being a teen and getting our first computer. I really liked Josh, I didn't mind Emma, but I felt more for Josh and this ended up being a fun read!

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  4. I was born 1978 and OoOOo this sounds fantastic even though you were not entirely and super happy in the end...

    But, I love the idea and although I saw this book around, I truly didn't give it more thoughts, didn't read the synopsis nor a review! But. I read yours and now. I think it will get on my lists! It's perfect, really since they are exactly my age!!

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  5. As much as I wanted to get to all the 90s bits and reminisce, I just couldn't get past the slow start. There didn't seem to be much purpose for the story. Like you said, the plot was... eh.

    Thanks for the review!

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  6. I was born in '88 so any 90's nostalgia will be greatly enjoyed! (I remember those AOL cds and how every week it felt like there was a newer version you'd have to download!)

    Its a shame the story itself was lacking though. I may give it a try later on just to relive some childhood memories.

    Kristan @ Lost Amongst the Shelves

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  7. Thanks for the great review. I think this is an awesome premise for a story! I can also see how it could easily get bogged down if not done perfectly, and let's face it, who can do that? It's one of those stories that's a better idea than actual book. Still, I love nostalgia, so I'd probably like it overall. Thanks for sharing it! :D

    musingsonfantasia.blogspot.com
    lkhill.blogspot.com

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  8. Great review!

    I was born in 1995, so a mid-90's kid and even though I was only 1 when the book is set, I still understood all the nostalgic references, because well, some of them went into the early 2000's. I agree that it does depend on your age as those born maybe in 1998/1999 may not understand it as much as someone that's 18/19 or older now.

    I hated Thirteen Reasons Why but I loved this book a lot. They are such different books though so it is quite hard to compare them.

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  9. I was born in 1982 so I think I'd really enjoy the nostalgia part of this story! It's a bit disappointing that that aspect is the best part, but I still find myself curious enough to want to pick it up.

    Also, I'm really looking forward to The Raven Boys at BEA, and if Laini Taylor's book is there I will absolutely be in line for it. And Crewel. And Ten:)

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  10. I like this story! it took me back to the days that I got my first computer with an AOL cd! AHH! I feel so old.

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  11. The nostalgia in this book was great, oh AOL Cds :)

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  12. Here in DC, Steve Case (the founder of AOL) is a big funder of tech start-ups, but no one can get over the billion AOL CDs he spammed us with. The kids will never understand.

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  13. I don't think I would end up liking this book, so I think I might skip out on it. One reason being I wouldn't understand the nostalgia aspect of it and another being, but on the other hand the whole foundation for the story sounds interesting. I don't know. I'm kind of torn on whether or not I'll read this book. Thanks for the great review, you've definitely got me thinking about the book.

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  14. Hum. Not sure if I'm going to read this one or not. I like the whole 80's nostalgia aspect but I'm not sure if I'm in it for a whole book. But I do like Jay Asher!

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  15. I keep reading this same thoughts on this the nostalgia and the concept is fantastic but the exection fails. I know I will love revisiting all that great 90's stuff so I want to read this for that alone. I must wish the rest of it was as good.

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  16. I was 6 in 1996. I remember a lot about the late nineties, but not necessarily everything. Thanks for sharing!

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  17. This sounds like a really interstng read! Talking to your future self on facebook..let's leavve it to the imaginaion...I haven't read this but hope to.

    Great review! =D

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  18. I could totally see myself getting lost in the nostalgic joy, being that I was born in 1979, but I'm not overly excited about the open ending. Still, I think this one sounds like a good one to look for at my library.

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  19. I keep seeing this book and skipping it whenever I'm at the library. I love the two authors and I think the concept is great, but I just think it was written at the wrong time, you know? Perhaps if a new Facebooklike website was developed it would have more panache. I was born in '82 but I love everything 80s and I can pick up on the references, etc. I just feel 'meh' about this one. *shrugs* Maybe I'll wait a little longer for this one.

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  20. This totally sounds like a nostalgia trip! I started getting nostalgic just reading your post, haha. I definitely remember the days of dial up and AOL because it feels like I was one of the very last people to switch over. I'm pretty sure I still have copies of YM somewhere too!! I like the point you made about nostalgia being better than the story though. I've heard similar things about Emma so I think she would really frustrate me too!

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  21. This was actually the second or third book that I read this year and I enjoyed it quite a bit, but I understand a lot of what you're saying. I liked Emma, but she did always want something better. And the ending was enough for me, but for some reason I don't know why. I usually hate open endings. Meh. You wrote an amazing review though.

    Old follower.

    Rebecca of Vicariously!

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  22. I was born in 1980 so this would be full of nostalgia for me! But I've heard similar things - that the concept and the nostalgia are the best parts in the book, and the rest is lacking. I still can't wait to get caught up in the nostalgia, though! Great review!

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  23. Hmmm...I'm an old lady so the nostalgia would not be lost on me but I fear that the lack of a strong ending may prevent me from giving this one a shot. Too bad as it sounds like a great concept!

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  24. Superb review! I like it..very thorough and honest. Good job!

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  25. I'm definitely looking forward to this one. I've read 13 Reasons Why and really enjoyed it so I'm sure I'll like this one just as much. I'm definitely looking forward to all of the 90's throwbacks. Thanks for the great review.

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  26. I was born in the mid-80s so I've been dying to read this one! We never had prodigy, but I used to beg my parents for it. Mainly because there was a Baby-Sitters Club community on it that was advertised in the back of every single book. My first internet experience was with AOL, and yes I can definitely remember the sound of it all, and the cds.... so yes, I basically can't wait to read this.

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