I’d been wanting to read YA novel The Future of Us, Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler (2011, 356) since I first heard about it’s premise which I consider unbeatable: two teens log onto a computer in 1996 and see tidbits of their future lives on Facebook fifteen years in the future.
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
This book has so many great elements. The time travel, although not the physical kind, is exciting because the stakes are high. Emma and Josh make decisions about how they should act in the present based on the glimpses they see of their futures. Yet the little bits they read keeps changing, playing havoc with their emotions. As a reader, you inevitably wonder, if you could have peeks of yourself fifteen years in the future would you choose to see? And even if you decided it wasn’t a good idea to see your future, if seeing was as easy as logging onto your bedroom computer, would you be able to resist?
I loved the nostalgia aspect of this book. It made me remember a lot of things I had forgotten about 1996–such as that dial-up internet service used to tie up the phone line so no one could make phone calls, and that bootleg cassette tapes of concerts were considered valuable. I also enjoyed the reference to the movie Wayne’s World (the first one.)
The friendships depicted in this book, not simply between the two main characters, but also between those characters and their best friends, are fun and fully fleshed out. These are the kinds of friends you would be lucky to have in high school. They listen to each other and make small sacrifices so that their friends can be happy/safe. Although sex and alcohol use by other teens is mentioned in the book, the main characters make responsible choices in these areas.
I always love books that have chapters written from alternate characters’ points of view, and this one does it well. The voices of Emma and Josh were different. This book was written as a collaboration between two authors and I don’t know if the female author mostly wrote Emma’s chapters, and the male author Josh’s, but I like to imagine this was the process.
I really did not know how this book was going to turn out. Readers not on Facebook could enjoy this book, but I think you can appreciate it a lot more if you have a familiarity with Facebook. The Future of Us is a ton of fun.
YouTube author interview about the book here.