This is my fifth review as a member of NetGalley, a digital review service where professional readers (such as librarians, bloggers, booksellers, educators, and those in the media) can obtain free advance copies of forthcoming books from publishers for review. The Here and Now was written by Ann Brashares, author of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants and My Name is Memory. The publisher, Delacorte Press (owned by Random House), categorizes the book as Juvenile Fiction—Girls and Women (ages 12 and up). The book will be published on 8 April 2014. There are no spoilers in this review.
An unforgettable epic romantic thriller about a girl from the future who might be able to save the world . . . if she lets go of the one thing she’s found to hold on to.
Follow the rules. Remember what happened. Never fall in love.
This is the story of 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 Prenna falls for Ethan Jarves.
Please don’t think NetGalley forced me to read a work of juvenile fiction. That’s not the way NetGalley does things. Readers choose the books they would like to review, and the publishers decide whether to approve the request. So far, I haven’t been rejected by a press. I chose this book because 1) it’s about time travel, and 2) I’m trying to branch out in my reading in my attempt to grow as a writer.
The book’s synopsis caught my attention from the start. As someone with an interest in how humans will ultimately respond to the realities of climate change, I wanted to see how this author addressed the topic. Of course, as an adult, I had to remind myself I am not the target audience for the book. I also had to put aside my personal thoughts on time travel. The reader must accept the premise that we can change events in the past that will alter our own present—something I don’t believe will hold up to future scientific exploration.
That aside, I found the story engaging and the events leading to Prenna’s original time completely plausible. The book moves at a good pace overall, although I did think the all-important “middle” suffered the slow down that affects more books than it probably should. Still, I understand how the author might want to reinforce the difficulty of Prenna’s situation and the choices she must ultimately make.
No matter the vision an author has in mind for the characters, readers have a habit of interpreting them in very different ways. Personally, I found both Prenna and (especially) Ethan to be a bit too perfect and all but one of the adults to be the classic obstacles to their own goals. Maybe this is what today’s reader of “juvenile fiction” wants, but for me, the characterization was a bit too stereotyped. And the idea that two teenagers will make everything right is a stretch.
But the book was an enjoyable diversion over several overloaded work-day evenings. The writing isn’t “dumbed down” for younger readers, and the story addresses some serious issues that will likely challenge the readers as adults. Just maybe the story will encourage some readers to enter fields where they could make a difference and help bring about a different future without the need for time travel.
The Here and Now will be released on Tuesday, 8 April 2014 and will be available in both paper and electronic formats.