January 23, 2012 by Heidi
Author: Jay Asher [Website|Twitter|Facebook] and Carolyn Mackler
Standing: Stand alone novel.
Genre: Young Adult, Sci Fi, Time Travel(!)
Published: November 21st, 2011 by Razorbill
Format: Hardcover; 356 pages.
Source: Borrowed from my local library.It’s 1996 and Emma’s father has sent her a new computer as a consolation prize. He’s just had a new baby girl with his wife, and lucky Emma gets a computer. Josh shows up at her door with an AOL disc, which will give her 100 hours free when she signs up. It’s awkward. Josh and Emma used to be best friends, they grew up next door and spent countless hours together, but six months ago Josh thought maybe they could be more than friends and Emma rejected the notion with horror. Still, she’s not going to turn down the AOL handout so she loads it up, snags her e-mail addy, and logs on. To find Facebook. Is this some kind of sick joke? She’s on a page with a woman who has her name, graduated from her high school, and well–looks just like she would if she were 15 years older. Emma calls Josh over to help investigate, and as they uncover the truth about their futures through what they see on Facebook, they learn how easy it is to create ripples in their lives that will affect who they will become.
Ah the 90s. This book was so full of 90’s nostalgia I found myself exclaiming words like “SCUNCHIE!” and “DISCMAN!” aloud as I read. Do you remember that horrid sound of dial-up? Do you remember your parents kicking you off the Internet because they needed the phone? Do you remember when ball pits still existed?! LOVE IT! I mean, Emma has the whole debate over whether to use the brick wall or the pipes screen saver and chooses brick wall and I’m like “Wtf Emma? Everyone knows pipes are the best, I still use it!”
Asher and Mackler are a fantastic team in The Future of Us, which alternates perspectives between Josh and Emma (I’m assuming Asher wrote Josh and Mackler wrote Emma). This book is so incredibly intriguing to me because it will arguably only be relevant for a short amount of time to a certain amount of people. It’s great for teens now, and those of us who were teens in the 90s, but how long will it be before Facebook has changed so much that it is no longer recognizable or in use as it is in this book? I’m hoping teens who read it now will become more conscious about what they post online, and think about how the choices they make today may affect them in the future.
Let’s get down to the meat of it. I lurv time travel. Truly, madly, deeply. I mean, my list of sexceptions consists only of: The Doctor. Oh, and Archer, but as he’s a cartoon I’m thinking that’s even less probable. ANYWAY, the time travel factor in The Future of Us is awesome! I feel like most of the time travel I’ve read lately has been travel to the past, where they are either unable to affect events, or they know exactly what they want to change and how they can do it. This was none of that! In The Future of Us Josh and Emma are faced with the reality that even the slightest changes in their lives can affect their future–their families, their careers, their friends–everything. It reminds me of those scenes in the Back to the Future movies where they’re trying to change names that appear on tombstones or who’s in a picture.
When they first discover Facebook, Josh’s future is looking so bright he’s gotta wear shades, but Emma just sees herself as miserable. She starts taking steps to ensure that her future comes out happier, but Josh is terrified about how Emma’s actions will affect the futures of himself and others.
So let’s talk about Josh and Emma, shall we? I liked Josh a lot, he’s a nice guy who I probably would have been happy to be friends with in high school. It broke my heart that Emma broke his by putting him in that terminal best friend syndrome position, and I truly felt like he deserved a good future whatever it may be. Emma on the other hand…well…I didn’t like her. At all. So excuse me as I go a little ranty pants on her ass: Emma is incredibly selfish, but is convinced that everyone she is involved with is the selfish one. It’s possible that she’s so afraid of real love and emotions that she surrounds herself with jerks and other self-involved people and then sits around feeling sorry for herself. She messes with Josh and breaks his heart several times, and then blames him when their friendship deteriorates. /end rant. Despite her rampant shallowness, Emma does have the capacity for change, which was what helped bring me around to trying to see what Josh saw in her. As annoying as Emma was to me, both her and Josh were incredibly well constructed and I have to say I really enjoy reading well-written unlikable characters sometimes. That said, one last thing before I leave you with a notable part of The Future of Us:
“You’re reading a lot into very few words, I say.
Emma glares at me. “If I totally screw things up, then I’ll change it back.”
“You can’t change it back!”
“You’re not playing, remember? And if I screw things up that badly, then I’ll keep screwing them up until they get better. I can hit Refresh all night if I need to.”
“I’m out!” I say, heading toward the door. “I’m done with Facebook. I’m not messing with the future anymore.”
“That’s because you’re afraid,” Emma says. “You have no idea why Sydney likes you, so you’re terrified that something I do will break that rock solid relationship of yours.”
“Sydney has plenty of reasons to like me,” I say.
“This is stupid.”
“You can’t, can you?” she says. “You’re afraid of reality.”
“If anyone in this room is afraid of reality,” I say, “it’s not me.”
“That’s it.” Emma moves the arrow from the Refresh icon and clicks on Friends.
“What are you doing?”
“I’m looking you up. Maybe things will never be perfect in my future, but I’m tired of you acting like you’re better than me because your life turns out fantastic.”
“I never even thought that.” I run to the computer and pry her fingers away from the mouse, then I click back to Emma’s page.
Emma jabs her finger at the screen. “Do you see where I live now?”
Lives in Columbus, OH
“Remember how I was a marine biologist?” she says. “I should be living near the ocean. I worked at the lab in Massachusetts, but we moved to Ohio. I’m sure that’s because of Kevin. So I’m stating out loud that if Kevin even suggests moving there in the future, he’s out of his mind. Right this second, I’m committing to never living in Ohio.”
Emma’s finger taps the Refresh button. The page reloads.
Lives in London, England
“It worked!” Emma says.
She touches the mouse, but I pry her hand away again. I’m not letting go until she promises to stop this game.
“This is scary,” I say. “You’re not even doing things anymore. You’re just making up your mind and changing your life.”
Likelihood that I’ll be back for more: It’s official, I’ll read anything Jay Asher puts his name on. I’ve had Mackler’s The Earth, My Butt and Other Big Round Things kicking around in my TBR pile for a while now, and it’s just bumped up in priority!
Recommended for: Okay I know it says “Young Adult” up there by the Genre heading, but you know what? This book was made for children of the 90s. If you were a teen then, this book will be so reminiscent and perfect for you! Also people who enjoyed the movie 13 Going on 30, The Future of Us is less of a light romcom, but has some similar themes.
Real life repercussions of reading this book: I’ve really gotta get me a “When I was your age, Pluto was a planet.” t-shirt. Like stat.