Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Book Review: The Future of Us

The Future of Us
by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler
356 pages
Publisher: Razorbill
Publication Date: November 21, 2011
Source: Library
Add it to your bookshelf on GoodReads here

It's 1996, and Josh and Emma have been neighbors their whole lives. They've been best friends almost as long - up until last November, when everything changed. Things have been awkward ever since, but when Josh's family gets an America Online CD-ROM in the mail, his mom makes him bring it over so Emma can install it on her new computer. When they sign on, they're automatically logged onto Facebook... but Facebook hasn't been invented yet. Josh and Emma are looking at their profiles fifteen years into the future. Their spouses, careers, homes and status updates - it's all there. But it's not what they expected. And every time they refresh their pages, their futures change. As they grapple with the ups and downs of what their lives hold, they're forced to confront that they're doing right - and wrong - in the present.

It's crazy to think that 16 years ago most teenagers didn't have access to the internet. It's even crazier to think that Facebook has been around for less than a decade. For all of my teenagedom I've had access to the interwebs and for most of it I've had a Facebook account. I mean who doesn't have a Facebook account? But in The Future of Us, even though its only set 16 years in the past, there is no Facebook. There's hardly any internet. So when Emma dials up for the first time and her future Facebook page pops up on the screen its weird. More than a little weird: totally weird.

The funnest/craziest part about the Future of Us is seeing how far we've come as a society in the past 16 years. Everything about life back then was so different, but at the same time so the same. Reading this book was like getting teleported into some strange time space continuum. Being a 90's kid I understood everything the characters were talking about. In fact I remember getting dozens of those AOL CD-ROMS in the mail and I also remember when the first Toy Story movie was released in theatres. But even though I understood all the cultural references they also felt so foreign to me. I mean a world with no Wi-Fi? And no Facebook? HOW CAN THAT BE?!?! Of course I know life used to be like that but everything else was basically the way it is now so it just seems SO WEIRD. Other than technology life really hasn't changed all that much.

The funny thing about The Future of Us is it's so hard to categorize. You can't really call it historical fiction because the setting isn't THAT old but at the same time you can't call it contemporary fiction because, well, these character's don't know what Facebook is! A lot of the humor of this book comes from the fact that we as the reader know and understand Facebook but the character's don't. Lines like "Who has that many friends?" and "Why would people post such personal stuff online?" are absolutely hilarious but also very true. I love the way this book made me think about Facebook in an entirely new way. I'm definitely more careful now about posting personal info.

The melding of Facebook and time travel was so ingenious and such a great story element! Unfortunately not everything about The Future of Us was as stellar and the one area that it didn't measure up was characters. One character in particular actually and that was Emma. I found it impossible to relate to her at all. She spent almost the entire book whining about all the "bad" things that were going to happen in her future.

I don't like my future husband. I better get a new one!

I don't like where my future self lives. I better change that too!

This sounds a bit harsh but in all honesty Emma was really selfish character. All she seemed to care about was herself. I think the point of Emma's character was to illustrate that people should live in the moment and not obsess about their future, but if so it was almost like a caricature. She was just so over the top all the time. On the other hand Josh was a really sweet character. I thought his story line was a lot more engaging then Emma's and he was a much more sympathetic character. Plus it was nice to have a character that wasn't trying to change their future spouse every 5 seconds. >.<

Even though the Emma's character totally didn't work for me I still found myself blazing through this book. I couldn't put it down. I was literally hiding out in the bathroom at one in the morning so I could keep reading. :P I just HAD to find out what happened to Josh and Emma's future selves! The ending was a bit unsatisfying but it wasn't quite as cliched as I thought it would be so I consider that a success.

Overall The Future of Us was a really enjoyable read. I know I spent most of this review griping about Emma, but honestly I really do recommend it, especially if you remember the 90's and days of AOL dial up internet!

I give The Future of Us 4 out of 5 ice cream cones!

Julia :)

1 comment:

  1. Nice! Merideth and I were just talking about this one yesterday, wondering who exactly this one was written for - today's teens or those who were teens in the 90s. Looks like you answered that question : ) I also reviewed this - for GPL's blog. Here's the link: http://bookobsessiongpl.blogspot.com/2012/01/future-of-us-facebook-magic-8-ball.html



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