By Ekta R. Garg
April 9, 2014
Rated: Borrow it
A teenager comes to present-day New York City from the future with a group of other people, supposedly to embark on a mission to rescue the future citizens from a deadly disease. Despite her best intentions and every effort to keep her identity a secret, she breaks one of the rules: she gets emotionally involved with a “time native”—a boy who belongs to the present. She doesn’t realize, though, that the boy has a secret of his own and that it involves her. Ann Brasheres, author of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, presents her latest novel called The Here and Now, which will enchant readers on many levels.
Prenna came to New York City at the age of 12 from the future and has spent the last five years doing her best to assimilate with teenagers from the present. The leaders of her group of future visitors spend time making sure they keep everyone in line and that no one breaks the rules. Prenna understands why the rules exist, but she can’t help feeling their constraints. She wants nothing more than to act normal, to talk to kids outside her community about the things she’s seen and experienced in the future.
That future doesn’t offer Prenna good memories. A pandemic that began with mosquitos has almost destroyed civilization. Prenna and her community members have come back to try to redirect events and hopefully thwart the pandemic. To make sure their efforts succeed, Prenna, her mother, and her community friends must do everything they can to keep away any attention from their time traveling status. There’s just one problem.
Prenna finds herself drawn to Ethan. She thinks about him. Prenna has long suspected that the community leaders listen to her conversations, but no one owns her thoughts and she uses those to spend time with Ethan.
To her complete surprise, Ethan begins a friendship with her. He is gracious with his time and never pushes Prenna to talk about subjects that make her uncomfortable. Prenna thrives on his attention, yet she can’t help feeling that he knows something. But how? She’s never revealed anything about her past. When Ethan finally answers the question for her, she realizes that he could possibly help her save the future in the present.
Brasheres clearly knows her audience and shows mastery of the young adult genre. She also offers something many YA books don’t: a concrete reason for the state of dystopia in a future America. The fact that her reason sounds completely plausible and a little prophetic may unsettle even some adult readers. But that concrete base to the book only increases its appeal.
The climax may feel a little subdued. Prenna and Ethan clearly play key roles in the development of the story, but when the high point comes Brasheres chooses a more subtle route and readers may need to review those pages a couple of times to appreciate their full impact. That review process might distract readers from the book itself, which is a shame when the rest of it offers so much promise. The end, too, may not offer readers the type of closure that some books do, but Brasheres doesn’t bow to convention. Life sometimes doesn’t offer perfect solutions to tough situations, she seems to say.
For readers who enjoy dystopian fiction but would also like a little more dimension to that genre, I would highly recommend The Here and Now.