Glory O'Brien's History of the Future
Genre: Magical Realism, YA
Publication date: October 14th 2014
by Little Brown BfYR
WOULD YOU TRY TO CHANGE THE WORLD
IF YOU THOUGHT YOU HAD NO FUTURE?
Graduating from high school is a time of limitless possibilities—but not for Glory, who has no plan for what's next. Her mother committed suicide when Glory was only four years old, and she’s never stopped wondering if she will eventually go the same way...until a transformative night when she begins to experience an astonishing new power to see a person’s infinite past and future. From ancient ancestors to many generations forward, Glory is bombarded with visions—and what she sees ahead of her is terrifying.
A tyrannical new leader raises an army. Women’s rights disappear. A violent second civil war breaks out. And young girls vanish daily, sold off or interned in camps. Glory makes it her mission to record everything she sees, hoping her notes will somehow make a difference. She may not see a future for herself, but she’ll do everything in her power to make sure this one doesn’t come to pass.
In this masterpiece about freedom, feminism, and destiny, Printz Honor author A.S. King tells the epic story of a girl coping with devastating loss at long last—a girl who has no idea that the future needs her, and that the present needs her even more.
-A copy was provided by Hachette Book Group for review-
So these girls drink the remains of a bat and start seeing the future. Yep, this will be a weird one! You have been warned!
Ok so, only having read 2 books by A.S. King so far, both of them being fairly normal, I wasn’t expecting this level of weird, but somehow it ended up working really well for me. The magical realism aspect of it turned it into a sort of contemporary-slash-dystopian hybrid which was, surprisingly, quite interesting. Though I foresee some people not being fans of this one; it’s definitely not for everybody, and you’ll have to go in with an open mind, believe me.
What helped me really enjoy this novel is Glory’s voice. She’s not at all a very likeable character – especially at first, but she’s not supposed to be. She’s angry and grief stricken. She doesn’t understand why her mother killed herself, and this has made her emotionally distant and cold. Hateful, even, at least sometimes. All of this, to me, makes her a really compelling character. She’s honest and sees the world for what it truly is, and I loved this about her. She’s not superficial or attention-seeking. She doesn’t just go with the trends of societal expectations. She’s a 17 year old feminist who doesn’t get her peers, nor does she want to be like them.. at all. She’s bound to offend some people with the things she says, especially with the comments about her only friend’s sexual… encounters, but I found that made her a realistic angry teenager. So, again, you’ve been warned.
While she’s trying to find out what the point of being on this world is, what she plans to do with her future, and finally understanding who her mother really was, her and her friend who lives in a cult-like community across the street decide it’s a great idea to drink the remains of a bat (with warm beer!). After which they can somehow see visions of the future. But are these real or is it the symptom of some illness it gave them? That was my question, anyways. Regardless, it added a very interesting second layer to this story, even though I wasn’t sure about it at first. Magical realism can be very tricky to add to a book with such an otherwise gritty contemporary feel. Yet, it worked. Well for me it did. The visions that Glory has involve a second civil war, a big downward spiral when it comes to the future of women’s rights, and a very scary, very dystopian-like future for the American people. This was fascinating and not at all unfathomable, which made it all the more captivating. I mean, not all of it is exactly believable in the exact context it was presented (everyone important is born from people around her, apparently), but technicalities aside, it was a fascinating bit of futuristic possibilities that hopefully will never happen but honestly wouldn’t surprise me if it did.
As usual, A.S., created characters with depth and substance. From Glory herself to the smallest of secondary roles, they all came together with unique, believable personalities. Almost all side characters had their own conflicts and histories, their own bad decisions and insecurities. They were real! I especially loved Glory’s complicated relationship with her dad. I enjoyed seeing them grow closer as Glory finally came to understand her mother’s perspective – or at least learn a little bit of who she was and, in turn, how she wasn’t like her mother in every sense – which made her grow as a person herself. It not only kicked herself into gear, but she made her father want to move on with his life, too. Death can linger for years and decades if you never learn to somehow live with this new hole in your life.
Dark, gritty, poignant, and with a good dose of black humour, Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future is an emotionally compelling story with a touch of strange. It’s a book that easily stands out from the rest. Its easy narrative and short chapters make for an incredibly quick read, and I urge you to at least give it a chance!