Wednesday, May 30, 2012
The Future of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler
November 21, 2011; Razorbill
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)
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.