Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Review: The Future of Us by Jay Asher & Carolyn Mackler

by Jay Asher & Carolyn Mackler
Release Date: November 21st, 2011
2011 Razorbill
Hardcover Edition; 356 Pages
ISBN: 978-1-59514-491-1
Genre: Young Adult Fiction
Source: Review Copy from Publisher

3 / 5 Stars

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.

My Thoughts
The Future of Us was an enjoyable read, if anything for the great trip down memory lane.  Although I was way past high school, even in 1996, I do remember the advent of the Internet in the workplace and the changes it brought to the job, and since I am a teacher I was thinking of the moments when the Internet was first introduced in school, and the impact it had on everyone, and the job.

I really thought the idea of this novel was fabulous.  The idea of two teenagers discovering Facebook in 1996 would have been crazy and catastrophic, and the authors could have had so much fun with the storyline.  But this is where is all stopped because as much as I enjoyed the trip down memory lane, the many references to pop culture grew old very quickly and I wanted to focus a lot more on the storyline.  The story was rather interesting at first as Josh and Emma discover they are looking at something from the future, and finally realize it's their future selves.  They both quickly learn that any action/reaction they have in the present will have repercussions in the future.  For Emma this is a good thing as she is not happy with her future and spends a large portion of her time trying to change her future, while Josh is quite clearly happy with his and gets angry at Emma for changing everything.  I have to tell you, the constant focusing on their own futures rather got on my nerves.  Or maybe it's because I am too nosy as I know for a fact I would have spent a considerable amount of time looking up as many people as I knew in order to discover their futures.  There was mention of this fellow student who promised to commit suicide if he wasn't a millionaire by age 30, and did they look him up?  What is wrong with these two people???  What about lottery numbers, for heaven's sake!!!  Or mutual funds and stock market numbers?  Gosh, the possibilities are endless.

I enjoyed Josh as a character far more than I enjoyed Emma.  To be honest, as the book progressed, I grew more annoyed with Emma and didn't really care for her a whole lot by the end.  I actually found her to be somewhat shallow and selfish as a person, someone who cared more about appearances than true character, having boyfriends because of the way their hair looked.  One of her decisions to dump a guy was based on the fact he shaved his head, and she mourned the loss of his hair.  The final straw for me was when Emma kissed Josh knowing the crush he had on her just to see how her future would change.  And then she got mad at him when he called her on it.  I was not overly impressed with her reaction.  I did however, like the interactions between Josh and Sydney and found Syd to be the more interesting character.  There just seemed to be a bit more depth to her and while there were hints at some previous hurts, nothing really materialized.

The writing style actually flowed quite smoothly considering it was a joint effort and I was surprised at that as the collaborative thing doesn't always work.  My main concern with the plot was the many interesting threads that were started, but then didn't go anywhere such as the one about Josh's brother, Sydney's relationship with Rick, Emma's sister Rachel, and so on.  These were far more interesting that the shallow behaviours exhibited by Emma in her quest to date Cody.  I just think if some of these more gritty threads had been developed, it would have been a different, more developed, deeper story.

The Future of Us was interesting in that I got to go back and remember a few things about the 90s.  There were some compelling moments in this novel and definitely some concepts and ideas that could have been developed and written about in more depth and with detail.  The novel does carry a great message about choosing your own future, and being careful about the choices you make; only you can change your future so make the best of it.   While I had trouble identifying with the main characters as well as the plotline, it won't stop me from reading another book by either of these authors as I did like their writing styles.