Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Future of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler

This is one of the last ARC’s I picked up in New Orleans. And I’m so glad I did. Firstly, I met Jay Asher a few times throughout my stay in New Orleans. Granted, I think he hosted one of the YALSA events I went to. And another time was at the signing of this book. But I know I saw him at least two other times looking at YA books! And meeting him and learning how nice of a person he was only made me want to read this book so much more.
Also, there’s that picture. I asked Jay Asher, Carolyn Mackler, and David Levithan if I could put their picture on my blog. Apparently, YA authors like to hang out together at these conferences! And then Jay Asher asked if he could put my picture on his! So if you go to my ALA New Orleans posting: ALA New Orleans Adventures, you will see that picture at the bottom, and there should be a link to Jay Asher’s blog with the picture of me taking that picture!
Jay Asher is famous for the book Thirteen Reasons Why, and Carolyn Mackler is famous for her girl fiction YA books like The Earth, My Butt, and other Big Round Things. They are two very different writers. And like how I felt with David Levithan and Rachel Cohn, this just made their characters so much more relatable.
The book takes place in 1996, when Emma gets her first computer, and CD-ROM for AOL (with a dial up connection!). Her best friend Josh and her have barely been on speaking terms for the past six months because Josh made his feelings known to her. But, Josh is the one that hands her the CD-ROM.  And with AOL, comes a link to reading their futures. Josh and Emma come to be friends again (both with other respective love interests), as they learn about Facbook, the website of the future that shows them what their lives will be like in 15 years.
At first the two don’t really believe this site comes from the future. They think Facebook is some kind of prank being played on them. But what seals the deal is finding a picture in Emma’s high school memories photos that she knows she hasn’t developed from her camera yet in the present. Josh and Emma learn that any changes they make in regards to important decisions and even not-so important decisions (like spilling something on a new carpet) can drastically change and effect what their futures will be.
Emma learns that she will eventually marry someone who seems awful, so she goes about making sure that marriage will never happen. She even calls her future husband in 1996 to see what she can do to prevent anything from happening. She learns what school he goes to and decides she won’t be going there. But more than even future husbands, Facebook is telling Josh and Emma who is out of the closet in the future, who is not friends with them in the future, and who will become a teen mom in the not-so-distant future, and so much else.
In very subtle ways the book deals with the questions: how much of the future would you want to know? How much are you willing to give up to strive for a better future (your current boyfriend, your dream college, your best friend?) And how much time should we actually be spending on Facebook looking at everyone’s lives instead of actually just living our own?
The book deals with a few other tough teen subjects (on the sidelines, in other words very slightly) like: sex, sexuality, falling in love with your best friend, teen pregnancy, and divorce.
What I loved most was the relationship between Emma and Josh. I just kept hoping for the two to be together. I thought both characters were so real. These authors weren’t afraid of making Emma seem a little selfish and not so bright in the boy department (which makes sense considering all the divorces she’s been through), and they weren’t afraid of making Josh a real teenage boy. Yes, he was a very good, sweet, and almost ideal boy (but a sex-wanting teenager too).
The one thing I was not a big fan of was what I call the product placement. I get that the authors liked going back to the 90’s. I liked going back to the 90’s too. Really, I did. It was fun to remember my first AOL experiences and some dial-up memories. But there was so much said about clothing, music, and skateboards. I just felt a little overwhelmed. We don’t need all those things to know the time period. Or, we at least don’t need all those things as much as we got them. Maybe one Dave Mathews reference would have been enough?
The book was like a really good teen movie where you keep hoping for certain characters to get together. I loved the characters. I loved the concept. And most of all, I loved how believable everything was. I give it a 9/10.

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