Publisher: Penguin Teen, Razorbill, Razorbill Canada
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.
It’s taken me awhile to get this review up because I needed to think about some of the awesome things that happened in this book. I think it’s one of the more realistic portrayals of teens that I’ve seen – even if these teens live in 1996. A lot of YA books I’ve read lately create situations where teens have to grow up too soon – books like Divergent, The Hunger Games, even Kieran Scott’s “She’s So Dead to Us” series look at teens in complex, life-or-death situations that force teens to make adult choices. Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler come at this book a totally different way. Both Emma and Josh are very much teenagers in their decision-making skills – they make rash decisions based on very little evidence, and because of that, this book feels very vivid and real.
The problem, of course, is that what they do really does affect their future selves – in both minute and life-altering ways that they can actually see. Characters struggling with knowledge of their futures is not an unusual sci-fi trope, but Asher and Mackler have created a concept that makes it new and relevant to a teenage audience. Moreover, they don’t hold back. As we discover more about Emma and Josh’s future selves, we discover more about Josh and Emma as people. Not everything they decide to do is moral or right, and certainly, the characters themselves do not necessarily condone what they’ve done. But Asher and Mackler have succeeded in creating realistic characters – and maybe that is more sympathetic and right than anything else.
I really enjoyed The Future of Us, and I think it might be a pretty interesting read for the classroom – I can see a month being devoted to “future studies” in a relationships/social studies class.