Series or Stand Alone: Stand Alone
Summary: 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.
I saw the buzz going about this book and I was curious about it. This was especially true after reading Thirteen Reasons Why earlier this year. Once I got it from the library, I found out we were using it for book club along with Shine, so that worked out nicely.
When Emma receives a computer as a gift, her friend Josh brings over a free AOL trial CD. When Emma downloads her trial, she is brought to facebook and sees a glimpse of her future life. At first convinced it was a prank, Emma continues to explore the website, seeing the pages about her friends in addition to her own. When she notices details that couldn't possibly be known to a practical joker, Emma realizes that she is seeing a legitimate peek into what's to come--and she doesn't like what she sees. Emma continues to make her decisions based solely on changing the outcome of her future, basically cementing more and more future displeasure. Josh decides to go for the popular girl that the future says he's married to, only to realize that perhaps the dream future is more attractive than his current reality with her. Will Emma and Josh quit worrying about their futures in order to live in the now?
The idea of this book was a totally fresh concept--it showed how strange of a concept facebook is, while incorporating future-telling elements that were never explained. But really, I didn't think that they needed to be explained. The biggest strength of this book was the portrayal of American teenage life in 1996. Seriously people. That's what life used to be like. Cell phones? Who does that kid think he is, Zach Morris? Emma's mom and stepfather videorecording Seinfeld? Damn right you can't change that channel. I spent a good number of hours during my childhood waiting out videorecordings of hockey games. Emma shouldn't bitch, at least Seinfeld was only half an hour long. And fuck yeah, Windows 95 was the shit. We had that AOL free trial. It ended up unused in a box that I'm pretty sure it's still in. We didn't get the internet until 2003. Basically, all of the 90s references were spot-on and way awesome for a 90s kid like myself. I'm curious about what current teenagers think of all of the references in these books.
Another strength for this book was how quickly the action began (action being a relative term here). Asher and Mackler did not waste too much time. Emma had downloaded her free trial and seen facebook way before fifty pages were up. I also liked that Emma and Josh's friendship tension was explained fully with one reference--they were best friends, Josh told Emma he liked her, Emma backed off, resulting in awkward city for everyone. No long, drawn-out, unnecessary mystery, just a normal problem that can exist within a male-female relationship.
I had a lot of trouble sympathizing with Emma's character. In fact, I found her most unlikable. Part of it may have been that I entirely disagreed with her choice to obsessively stalk her facebook future and make decisions solely based on whether or not it would change her fate. I wanted her to go out and live her damn life instead of doing things just to change her facebook future. Also, she was so cavalier about dealing with other people's futures! Not cool, Emma. Not cool at all. Normally I would have counted the multiple points of view in this story as a plus, but in the end I was so annoyed with Emma's obsessive facebook activity that I sort of wished I could hear the rest of the story from Josh's point of view only.
The Future of Us was a new and interesting concept by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler. I liked that it was a straight up contemporary (DO NOT tell me this counts as historical fiction already) in which the characters could see their futures. Asher and Mackler did put up an impressive 90s backdrop, which was definitely the best part of the story. It almost made up for how wretched Emma was. Almost.
Rating: 4 - good.