Monday, January 2, 2012

Review: The Future Of Us by Jay Asher & Carolyn Mackler


The Future Of Us by Jay Asher & Carolyn Mackler

Pages: 288
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Australia
Published: January, 2012
IBSN: 9780857076076

It's 1996 and less than half of all American high school students have ever used the Internet. Facebook will not be invented for several more years. Emma just got a computer and an America Online CD-ROM with 100 free hours. When she and her best friend Josh log on to AOL they discover themselves on Facebook... fifteen years in the future. Everybody wonders what life has in store for them.
Josh and Emma are about to find out.

Emma's dad's latest guilt gift is a new computer. When Josh comes over with an America Online CD-ROM, they log onto the internet for the first time and discover the Facebook profiles of their future selves.

I originally anticipating some issues suspending disbelief enough to enjoy The Future Of Us, but the characters reacted with natural and sympathetic confusion and paranoia. The confusion especially was founded, with these two kids from 1996 who have no idea how reliant we are on the internet seeing people's lives laid out bare. The Facebook element serves to make us reflect on our own dependence on the internet, and show us that the way to happiness a) is by focusing on the here and now, and b) is by focusing on forming real life connections, rather than ones form through Facebook chat and Twitter @s.

The speculative element is what you pick the story up for, the main hook, but you stay for the predominant contemporary story line of Josh and Emma trying to figure out what they want through trial and error. It's light and fun, at least when it isn't annoying. It follows the classic contemporary plot template of a burgeoning relationship, an obstacle, and a way around it. The ending is predictable, but the way there is mostly sweet and relatable.

I've read books by both Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler before (and am an fan of the latter but not so much the former), and so was familiar with their previous characters -- very normal, very relatable. Josh and Emma followed in the footsteps of their forecharacters in this respect, but took it that little bit farther and to achieve acute plainness. The plain voices reflected the simple prose, which was smooth, certainly, but by no means impressive.

Though what was notable about the characters was perhaps their poor memory or short attention spans. Subplots would arise in the form of worries -- worries that plagued them a great deal -- about their friends' futures, but often drop out unresolved without even entering the characters' thoughts again.

Overall, though, The Future Of Us was an entertaining and surprising novel about social networking and to a greater extent, regular networking. Though with inconsequential subplots and characters occasionally acting irritatingly, there's a sweet message and a sweeter friendship at its heart.