Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Future of Us Book Review

Author: Jay Asher & Carolyn Mackler. Release date: 2011. Publisher:  Razorbill. ISBN: 9781595144919.
Annotation: It’s 1996 and Emma Nelson and her best friend Josh Templeton are looking forward to graduating high school and going to college. Everything changes, however, when an AOL disc takes Emma to Facebook, a site she’s never heard of, and she sees her profile from 15 years in the future.
Personal thoughts: As an uber-1990s fan and a daily Facebook user, I was very excited to read this book. I am personally only a few years younger than the characters in this book were supposed to be, so I was anticipating on really relating to the whole looking into the future via Facebook concept. While I did love all of the 90s references, I ended up being disappointed with this novel. I felt like it had so much promise, but the characters and plot just didn’t do anything for me. I thought Emma was a huge brat and Josh was a bit of a wimp, so what happened in their futures wasn’t interesting. I also realized that most teen readers wouldn’t feel all the nostalgia that I got from reading about AOL discs, dial-up internet, mixed tapes, and Wayne’s World. Overall, I think the authors had the makings for a slam-dunk but, instead, missed the mark.
Plot summary: The year is 1996, and Emma Nelson is a senior in high school. She’s a little lost in her search for love before college: she isn’t really that into her current boyfriend, Graham, and her relationship with her best friend, Josh, hasn’t been quite the same since he tried to kiss her six months earlier. In an effort to rekindle their friendship, Josh gives Emma an AOL disc for 1,000 free hours that he received in the mail. Excited to get on the internet for the first time, Emma plugs in the disc and is taken to a strange and unfamiliar website: Facebook. The site asks Emma to input her newly created e-mail address and password, then displays a page with her name and a picture of a woman who looks like her, only about 15 years older. Emma is confused, but soon she and Josh realize what they’ve discovered: a website from the future that allows them to see who they will marry, what their jobs will be, and who they will be friends with. Josh is excited when he discovers that he will be married to Sydney Mills, the most beautiful and popular girl in school, and will spend his life going on exotic vacations with his hot wife and their adorable children. Emma is less than thrilled with what she sees on Facebook, however. She seems to be trapped in a loveless marriage and hasn’t really done anything with her life. Determined to ensure a future of happiness, Emma and Josh attempt to make changes in their 1996 present that will impact their 2011 Facebook profiles for the better.
Review:  This promising collaborative novel between authors Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler, unfortunately, falls victim to a common problem: great premise, poor execution. The idea of looking into the future from 1996 via Facebook is something that many are sure to find interesting. This basic concept will certainly appeal to a lot of adult readers who were teens in the 1990s and will relish all the nostalgic references. Unfortunately, the nostalgic feelings are the only that are invoked upon reading the book. Emma is a very unlikable character, seeming to care only about herself and jerking her friend Josh around after she learns he has feelings for her. Josh is somewhat more sympathetic, but not developed enough to be someone the reader can identify with. There is also a cast of supporting characters that are virtually indistinguishable from one another. Reading about Emma and Josh trying to change their futures while listening to Oasis, Alanis Morissette and Dave Matthews on their Discmans is moderately entertaining, but the warm-fuzzy 90s memories can only hold up the novel so much, and it’s likely that most teen readers won’t even have those.
Genre: Fiction
Reading level: Grade 8+
Similar titles: N/A
Themes:  Facebook, 1990s, friendship, seeing into the future.
Awards/Reviews:  Written by best-selling and award-winning authors.   
Series Information: N/A
Discussion questions: 
-    How old were you in 1996? Did you understand all of the 1990s references while reading the book?
-     What would you do if you could look at your Facebook profile 15 years into the future? 
-    Why do you think it was so awkward between Josh and Emma after his failed attempt to kiss her? Do you think it’s a good idea for best friends to date? Why or why not?
-      Do you think it was smart of Emma to try to change her future? Why or why not?

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