Title: The Future of Us
Author: Jay Asher & Carolyn Mackler
Publisher: Razorbill (November 21, 2011)
Source: ATW Arc Tours
It's 1996, and less than half of all American high school students have ever used the Internet.
Emma just got her first computer and an America Online CD-ROM.
Josh is her best friend. They power up and log on--and discover themselves on Facebook, fifteen years in the future.
Everybody wonders what their Destiny will be. Josh and Emma are about to find out.
I've been excited about The Future of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler since I first learned about it. I've never read Mackler's previous works, but I adored Asher's Thirteen Reasons Why. I expected The Future of Us to be an insightful exploration about how we live our lives in today's society as well as a nostalgic glimpse into the past.
I wasn't disappointed.
On the surface, Josh and Emma's story is about how two teens react when they learn too much about their futures. Do they obsess over every moment, wondering what actions could possibly change their fates? Do they allow the future to unfold naturally with no interference? And, most importantly, will they allow their future selves to impact their current relationship with each other and those around them?
Emma and Josh struggle with their futures because one of their future selves is happy while the other is not. The unhappy person struggles with making decisions that will hopefully change the future into a happier place. The happy person wonders if knowing the future will ultimately mess it up. This was an interesting dynamic between the two characters. Obviously, every action taken has consequences and similar to other time-travel novels, even the smallest ripple can have a huge impact.
What I really enjoyed about the story was the layers in storytelling. Sure, everything I just summarized and commented about is true, but the story has so much more. Reading the facebook status updates of their future selves, Emma and Josh wonder why they would say the things they do. Why share something so personal with the world? What's the significance of the amount of "friends" they have? Often, I wondered if the unhappy character was truly unhappy or only commenting on the unhappy aspects of their lives. While this isn't necessarily what the characters considered, it did seem like a possibility at least part of the time.
Another deeply explored question is: Should knowing something about your potential future influence how you live in the present? This is very present throughout the novel as both characters have to decide how to act now that they've glimpsed the future.
I don't mean to paint this story as completely a philosophical read. You can take or leave as much philosophy as you wish. In addition, there are many very comical and nostalgic aspects of this novel (providing you're old enough to remember things like AOL dial-up). Favorite line: "What happened to Pluto?" :D
Overall, a very enjoyable read. It wasn't as poignant as Thirteen Reasons Why, but the subject material is very different. [And I apologize to Carolyn Mackler for not reading her previous books and being able to make any compare or contrast comments.]
Final thoughts: Buy or borrow.