The Here and Now by Ann Brashares
Published by Delacorte Press Books for Young Readers on April 8th, 2014
Shelve It: Goodreads
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.
From Ann Brashares, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series, The Here and Now is thrilling, exhilarating, haunting, and heartbreaking—and a must-read novel of the year.
*I received a copy of The Here and Now from the publisher for review purposes.
The complexities of time travel, and how minor changes in the fabric of time can have grave consequences, is always fascinating, if tricky, and in that aspect, The Here and Now excelled. As the intricacies of the plot overwhelmed my senses, it was poor characterization and a resolution that seemed much too tidy that served to distract me from an otherwise enthralling read.
Having escaped a future Earth where a blood plague has been killing off civilization for several years, over 900 time travellers have travelled back to 2010 in order to escape their diseased and dying future for an Earth at the height of its technological advancements. While I found this history (future?) absolutely fascinating, I couldn’t help but wonder why these time travellers wouldn’t try to alert the scientific community to a potential deadly disease outbreak. For a group of individuals capable of travelling throughout time, capable of creating new personas, and successfully infiltrating a different world by forging the proper documents, I can’t see why they couldn’t have forged a string of blood plague-like deaths in a third world country in order to provide present day scientists with a good incentive to begin working on a possible treatment for the plague that haunted their future. Instead, the time travellers contented themselves with being integrated into society, shunning their former lives and essentially pretending it had never happened.
I also didn’t understand the level of scrutiny the time travelling Community kept their citizens under, or how they were successful with their approach. With a group of about 20 or so responsible for governing the time-travelling Community, their ability to monitor the daily actions and conversations of over 900 people, while looking for transgressions, seems quite implausible. And while I could understand that fear was a motivator for acquiescence for many, after years of complacency, that fear should have ebbed slightly; I didn’t understand why the members of the Community who had been silenced initially, didn’t ban together to speak out against the injustices they faced now. Why leave a dying world in order to live, to only live a half life?
Gripes aside, I loved a lot of the time travel aspects of The Here and Now. Listening to Prenna talk about future events like they existed in the past was something I stumbled over several times, but that I found endless joy in. I also loved how the overall plot was a giant puzzle, and that pieces from the future were necessary in order to complete the picture in the present. It made the little twists and turns The Here and Now took all the more suspenseful, as piece after piece clicked in to place. It also made the picture much larger than The Here and Now would seem to suggest, as the events required to fashion Prenna’s future world came from the most innocuous of present times. I also loved how The Here and Now took current environmental concerns and used them to fuel Brashares’ devastating future. While Brashares’ commentary bordered on being preachy, I love how Prenna managed to touch on several current events – the energy crisis, global warming, corporate responsibility, socio economics – in her quest to explain to Ethan how her future world became so grim.
Where The Here and Now was found lacking was in its characterization. I found Prenna fascinating, but it was only because I loved hearing about her experiences in her future world, where something as small as a mosquito bite was a death sentence. As for her personality, I really couldn’t tell you much about her besides the fact that she was curious and that she had a crush on Ethan, the boy who saw her appear from the future on the day she arrived in his present. It was this connection between Prenna and Ethan, that he knew she wasn’t completely normal, that prevented their relationship from growing organically; Brashares assumed it would be enough that they had a shared history. His obsession over his mystery girl explained his fascination with Prenna, and his unwavering attention explained why she paid him any attention.
I see myself kind of like the homeless guy in Ethan’s eyes; a bit of a sad case, but an interesting one. More of a project than a friend. He knows something’s a little off about me. Or suspects it. I can see by the way he looks at me, and I guess there is kind of a subtle alliance that goes with it.
What it didn’t explain, was how that obsession and unwavering attention equalled love, and at first, it seemed like Prenna would be realistic about their relationship. Talking about how she had lustful feelings for him, and that she could see herself possibly falling in love with him. But with the flick of an unseen switch she was suddenly referring to Ethan as the boy she loved, and I was left wondering when she had made the leap from lust to love. Ethan made the leap from obsession to love seemingly simultaneously, but turned me off by how quickly he went from proclamations of love to trying to be intimate with her at every turn.
If I could make love to you right now, I wouldn’t mind if I died.
Considering how hard it had been for Prenna to even talk about her life with Ethan, I also found myself surprised by how quickly she threw caution to the wind and rejected every rule she had spent the last four years living and breathing.
With The Here and Now’s ending, I found myself conflicted. On the one hand, I really enjoyed how everything came together, with the various links that were established between present day and future events and how the blood plague came to exist. On the other, I found Prenna’s speech at the end to be laughable, and the way in which everything was tied up in regards to the time travelling Community was too tidy. View Spoiler » It shouldn’t have been so easy for Prenna to overthrow the Community’s leaders. If it was as easy as Prenna made it out to be, someone else should have done it a long time a go, instead of continuing to live in fear. I just can’t imagine that the parents who had a child killed by those same leaders for being a threat to their secret, would stand idly by if it were that easy to have the Community rise up against the leaders and to have them loosen the reigns. « Hide Spoiler
Despite the lack of characterization, The Here and Now was an enjoyable read that I felt compelled to finish in just one sitting. While the resolution was also found wanting, the twists and turns in the plot that brought me to the ending were fantastically intricate, and the time travel elements were weaved in seamlessly, providing an element of mystery I was pleasantly surprised with.