I received this book for free from Random House Children's Books in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.The Here and Now by Ann Brashares
Published by Delacorte Press on April 8th 2014
Genres: Sci-Fi, Time-Travel, YA
Source: Random House Children's Books
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Meet seventeen-year-old Prenna James, who immigrated to New York when she was twelve. Except Prenna didn’t come from a different country. She came from a different time—a future where a mosquito-borne illness has mutated into a pandemic, killing millions and leaving the world in ruins.
Prenna and the others who escaped to the present day must follow a strict set of rules: never reveal where they’re from, never interfere with history, and never, ever be intimate with anyone outside their community. Prenna does as she’s told, believing she can help prevent the plague that will one day ravage the earth. But everything changes when she falls for Ethan Jarves.
What a disappointment. And an unexpected one since I was such a fan of her Sisterhood in the Traveling Pants series (which rocked my socks off!). I didn’t dislike this one right away; at first I was very much into it. We start by learning of their dystopian-like community that has formed in the past (our present), after having escaped from a plague ravaged future. A future that is, quite frankly, not at all unrealistic, making it all the more terrifying. Once we get down to business, though, things go downhill fast. From underdeveloped characters, to random – often boring – plot detours, to unemotional insta-love romance.
Prenna starts out as a great character – stubborn and determined. She’s from a future where touching meant death, and is now controlled by a creepy leader that imposes secrecy and a sealed community. All is good until she starts making dumb decisions with such obvious outcomes, that I became quickly and completely frustrated. The kind of dumb decisions that would make you throw popcorn at the TV. Unsurprisingly, she gets imprisoned due to her own stupidity. I actually found this particular detour to be quite random, even useless in the overall story progression. She gets caught, imprisoned, saved, then we end up exactly at the same place we were with nothing changed. It felt as if pages were added just to reach a word quota.
Now on to Ethan, the love interest and savior. This guy is whatever the plot needs him to be. Can he quietly and efficiently cut glass to break Prenna out of prison like some modern day criminal? While yes, yes he can. Did he somehow procure and think to implant a tiny tracker in her shoe in case she gets imprisoned? Who wouldn’t? Is he a hacker/programmer when they need to recover world-ending scientific data? Duh! Who is this guy? These are not the only conveniences throughout, either. They randomly find wads of cash tucked in with all the information they need to solve this mystery, left by the last person who tried. And don’t even get me started on time travel logic which is completely ignored. The grandfather paradox proves especially problematic to my brain. *twitch*
So these two kids have 2 (or was it 3?) days to stop the end of the world, but instead of putting their time and energy on actually… saving the world, they go to the beach, lounge on the sand, drink sangria, relax in hotel rooms, talk awkwardly about having sex, make detours to a school to reminisce on her past, play cards and cards and then more cards. Yawn! Sex is brought up more than once too, often through innuendos and blasé-like in an old-married-couple kind of way. It felt so impassive. The romance in general lacked passion and depth. I did not feel this “meant-to-be” connection they apparently had. And even though he’s had a crush on her for years, and her on him, their love declarations felt hasty and unconvincing. Lastly, I didn’t buy the ending where a teenager “gives it to the man”.
Obviously I had my share of problems with this one, but there were a couple things I liked. The plausibility of the future, for one, made what Prenna lived through plenty horrifying. I also liked her letters to Julius that are scattered throughout, describing her reactions to our ways of life that are weird and foreign to her. At the end of the day, these unfortunately did not make up for my overall annoyance.
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