The Future of Us – Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler

The Future of Us is a middle of the road read. Entertaining, but definitely not stellar. I really liked other books by these authors, so this was kind of a letdown.
I’ve read a few reviews that claim this isn’t a very accurate picture of the life of a teenager in 1996. Since I was seventeen and in my final year of high school in 96, I will politely disagree. If you are a teen in 2013, you can’t really understand what it was like to be a teen in the 90s. What seems trite and caracaturish is probably a little more accurate than you realize. Gripes about the characters not complaining about their lack of cell phones and such are irrelevant. Teenagers in the 90s rarely had them, so we weren’t pointing out what wasn’t the norm.
We dressed like this on purpose. We were not forward thinkers.
90210
I know that I didn’t sit around pining for the day I could never be out of contact. Sure, maybe we would occasionally whine about the inconvenience of waiting for someone to get somewhere, but that was all we knew, so we made it work.
Anyone with a home computer WITH internet connectivity was lucky. Most of us had to wait around to use the school computers, and even then, it was mostly just for emails. For an accurate (sans robot demon) representation of internet access in the mid-90s, check out one of the worst episodes of Buffy ever recorded.
robot
The characters in FoU are super vapid. Emma’s only worry is who she will end up marrying. She can’t figure out why her future self would complain about her personal life so openly on the internet – can I say how much I dislike people like that. Unfortunately, instead of having the forethought to change the self-absorption of her future self, she tunnel visions in on her future husband. While this is vain and shallow and all those other things, I don’t think it’s that unusual for someone of this age – even now in the time of selfies and social media reassurance – to focus on their romantic future.
One review (from a current teen) scolds Emma for not using her future knowledge to improve her stock options or study politics. Knowledge wasn’t as readily accessible then as it is now. If you wanted to be political, you had to actively make that decision. You couldn’t just click on a link and discover a new passion. It probably wouldn’t have occurred to Emma that this was even an option. We still went to the library for research and hoped they had the most recent set of encyclopaedias. I’m not saying it’s an excuse, but let’s be honest, not every teen alive today would use this opportunity to improve their stock portfolio.
So, cut the girl some slack; she’s got other problems. Mainly, that she never gets the point. Emma keeps making changes that she thinks are going to fix everything and her future self never gets any happier. She decides not to go to her dream school in order to not marry a certain boy. Why not go to the school and just not date that guy if she ended up meeting him? Emma is the epitome of a girl making all her decisions based on a boy – in some cases a boy she’s never met. And some of her choices end up pushing people (Cody) to become extremely successful while she gets more and more miserable. The lesson of the book should have been that you can’t be happy in the future if you’re so worried about it that you can’t be happy in you present. It’s a simple, clichéd message, but it holds a truth that Emma never learns.
There are some pretty major plot points I wish hadn’t been brought up at all: Namely, Kellan’s pregnancy and Josh’s brother’s sexuality. These topics are huge and I don’t see how Emma and Josh could have hidden them. They appear and are then just kind of forgotten about. These could have been huge plot points that shifted the entire tone of the story. Instead, they are craters in the flow of the novel.
Kellan would have been getting pregnant at exactly the time Emma can see the future. Emma realizes this, and essentially does nothing.
16
Garbage like 16 and Pregnant didn’t exist in the 90s. Teen pregnancy, especially in a small town, was a huge deal (there was a pregnant girl in my school – it was a big thing!).
It was a different/difficult time to be gay. Josh probably wouldn’t have known how to deal with it or talk about it with his brother, but I think it would have been something that he thought about more than he does. And if he’s the kid he’s portrayed to be, he would have at least tried to figure it out.
So, the books a semi-fun, what-if read (probably better for me because of the nostalgia), but let’s not take it too seriously people. If you want a sci fi/spec fiction book, skip The Future of Us. It’s not about that. It’s about a moment in time that bends for two specific people and how they adapted to it. It might not have been what you or I would have done, but for someone, it’s what they would have done.

Advertisements

Stay Weird

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s