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The Future of UsReview - The Future of Us
by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler
Razorbill , 2011
Review by Christian Perring
May 15th 2012 (Volume 16, Issue 20)

For today's teens, 1996 is the distant past, and The Future of Us  provides a strong dose of nostalgia for those AOL CD-ROMS, dial-up logging in, VCRs, the first signs of cell phones in popular use, and the Macarena.  The two narrators are Emma and Josh, 16-year-old high school students who live next to each other.  They take alternating chapters, telling the story of what happened when Emma's new computer gave her access to her Facebook page 15 years in the future, in 2011.  They get to see what will happen to them, and they soon realize that they can affect what happens.  Emma sees that not only is she married, but that she is unhappy in her marriage, so she sets out to prevent herself from meeting the man she marries who she will come to know in college.  On the other hand, in the future Josh is happily married to one of the hottest girls in his high school, and so he becomes very scared that something he or Emma does will change the future. 

The heart of this novel is a conventional teen romance but the clairvoyant theme of seeing 15 years into the future also provides a great insight into psychology.  Emma comes to realize that she is able to change who her future husband is, but no matter what manipulations she makes, she does not end up in a good relationship.  She is going to have to make more profound changes in her approach to life if she wants to be in a happy marriage.  Most of us have to discover this the hard way, with a series of unsuccessful relationships, but Emma gets to find it out through seeing her future Facebook page. 

The story is told well by Asher (author of Thirteen Reasons Why ) and Mackler (author of The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things) whose previous work has won high praise.  We get a slice of high school and family life from the mid-1990s and the characterization is good.  Of course, the plot requires a suspension of critical questioning about the idea of seeing into the future, specifically the fact that the future Emma and Josh would remember what they had done in the past, and would either send messages to their former selves or would take steps to make sure that they don't get access to the future.  But as with any time travel novel, it is pretty easy to make those allowances.  The story is pleasing enough for readers to just immerse themselves in it, enjoying details like Emma and Josh's puzzlement about why future people are so constantly updating their profile pages with trivial information about themselves.  We may also come to share their puzzlement.

 

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© 2012 Christian Perring        

 

Christian Perring, Professor of Philosophy, Dowling College, New York


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