April 2, 2014

The Future Is Frightening

The Here and Now by Ann Brashares

Release Date: April 8, 2014
Publisher: Random House | Delacorte
Pages: 288 pages
Source & Format: NetGalley; e-ARC
Amazon | Goodreads

Summary (from NetGalley)
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.

Thoughts on The Here and Now
I have read and enjoyed both of Ann Brashare's adult novels - The Last Summer (of You and Me) and My Name is Memory - but I've never actually read her more famous Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants young adult series. I've kept an eye out for new books from Brashares ever since I finished My Name is Memory because I felt like it was just calling for a sequel based on the way it ended. While that hasn't happened yet, I was really excited when I found out that she had a new, standalone YA novel in the works, The Here and Now.

The cover is really different and intriguing. I was almost immediately interested in finding out more about the story, and I really liked the idea that this book was going to be more science fiction-y. The heroine, Prenna James, has immigrated to New York from the future. But why would anyone want to travel back in time? Well, the future has become so horrible, so deadly, that there's no reason to stay there.

Prenna travels with a group of people like her. They live by a very specific code of conduct that is strictly enforced. They can't tell anyone where they're from, can't interfere with history, and cannot, under any circumstances, form relationships with people outside their small community. Doing so would start a ripple effect - a chain of consequences they couldn't control or undo. But Prenna and the people like her haven't just come to the past to escape the future. No, they're supposed to be looking for a cure, for a way to prevent the pandemic that will one day ravage the world and leave no one untouched. And then Prenna meets a boy.

To be honest, things started off great with The Here and Now. I was really intrigued by the set up and the dynamic in Prenna's community. I thought the book was strongest when it focused on the time travel aspects and painted a picture of the future world that was almost scary in the way it seemed so possible. Although I enjoyed some aspects of The Here and Now while I was reading, I kept thinking of more problems with it after I'd finished. The only that was glaringly frustrating to me while reading, however, was the insta-love.

A huge part of this book is centered around the idea that Prenna is drawn to James, and he makes her question everything that she's followed and believed so far. Unfortunately, the romance was so lackluster. I think part of the problem is that the characters are pretty undeveloped by the time they finally speak to one another, so you don't really have a good sense of who they are apart before you're supposed to be rooting for them to be together. I was completely detached from their relationship, which is a problem when the "forbidden love" is pretty central to the story. There wasn't really any depth to their relationship - nothing to reel me in emotionally.

So, was the plot enough to make up for my issues with the characters and the romance? Not really. It's kind of all over the place. Things are a little too convenient, a little too simple, and some didn't make any sense at all. The tension is supposed to be building as the clock ticks down to this significant date that will mark a huge shift that changes the direction of the world... and yet the characters take a break to hang out in a hotel and spend time together. They're supposed to be saving the world, but there's no real tension or anticipation as the book moves towards that point. I kept waiting for them to form a plan, think strategically... heck, even for them to take it seriously. So, you can imagine that it's going to be a given that they will run into major problems when they finally do attempt to change the present.

I didn't dislike The Here and Now, but it definitely wasn't enough for me. I enjoyed certain aspects of it and read it pretty quickly, but I wouldn't heartily recommend. It will probably work better for some readers, but I needed more from the characters and romance in particular. It was quick and interesting, but it wasn't that compelling overall. I like that Brashares tried something different with this novel, but it ultimately didn't really work for me.

So Quotable
"I want to feel something. I really do. But it's only the absence I feel, just the wishing and wanting where there is nothing. I just feel lonely."

"No matter how our hearts break, we bend toward life, don't we? We bend toward hope."
*I received a copy of this book from Delacorte in exchange for an honest review. I was not compensated in any way for my review.

16 comments:

  1. I requested this on NetGalley too but haven't gotten around to it yet. Now I'm kind of dreading to read it :/ DNF is not really my style, so I will generally finish a book regardless how boring I may feel while doing it. I hope I can enjoy this somewhat.

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    1. Yeah, it wasn't horrible by any means and I did *want* to finish (I wasn't trudging through it) but it was just lacking that special something to make it a really good read!

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  2. I agree with everything you have said in this review. I just finished typing up my review last night and it's so funny how parallel our thoughts are. I thought it started off really great and I was really enjoying it and then bam. insta-love came out of nowhere and ruined everything (well not everything), but it made it really hard to enjoy the rest of the book. I also thought the story was a bit simplistic which wasn't necessarily a bad thing for me, but it made the book not very memorable. I didn't not enjoy it. It was a quick read, but I definitely wanted more. I did love the science-y, time travel aspects. Whenever those parts were being discussed was when I was very tuned into the book. Great review!

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    1. Oh I'm so glad you agree! Yeah, I could have gotten over the insta-love if there had been more depth to the rest of the book. But since everything was so surface level, I was just wanting more from everything (like you mentioned). I've gotta go check out your review now!

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  3. I loved The Last Summer (of You and Me) and My Name is Memory, and I did read The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants series and really liked it when I was younger. (I loved the fifth book that came out recently, that takes place ten years later!) I was quite looking forward to The Here and Now, but now I think I'll pass... or at least, not run right out and buy it. The issues you point out sound, frankly, kind of infuriating, and not up to my expectations of Brashares.

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    1. I loved her two adult books, too! And I probably would have loved the Sisterhood books if I'd gotten into them when they first came out. I might give them a shot at some point, but I haven't felt compelled to read them yet. Haha! But yes, I'd say library this one first to see how you feel. It just didn't seem consistent with what I expected from her!

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  4. I read this one too and I agree with the insta-love thing. I really liked My Name is Memory but I'm still annoyed that there has been no sequel. I don't mind some novels where things don't end up happily ever after, but it seems that almost all of her novels are ending that way... There's a journey with a kind of unsatisfying ending. I want something to walk away from a story with and I just didn't get anything at the end of this one.

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    1. Oh gosh, I'm soooo annoyed there wasn't ever a sequel to that one too! I'm assuming the first book didn't do well and the pub didn't want to continue with a book two. But it's frustrating because I really enjoyed that book up to the open ending. Glad you agree on the insta-love thing too!

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  5. I totally agree with your review. I read this a few weeks ago and will be posting my thoughts tomorrow.

    I think my biggest frustration was the lack of character exposition. A lot of the plot points were contingent on points about the characters that weren't mentioned until they were needed to validate something that was happening. It was just all too convenient. I also agree that the romance was lackluster. I liked them as friends but not in a relationship, I just didn't feel the romantic connection. I did like the world-building though. I agree that the future that was created was not only scary but seemed possible.

    I did like the book though despite a lot of problems. Frankly I was a little disappointed because I too am a fan of Ann Brashares. I've read the Sisterhood series and My Name is Memory both of which are much better.

    Great review!
    Cassi @ My Thoughts Literally

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    1. I completely agree with what you've said about characters! They way characters were introduced and then simply used to further the plot didn't feel organic. It was SO convenient! And yes, the romance was lacking. Those things you and I both liked (future, world building) made me almost sad thinking about how much better this book could have been! But it really wasn't a bad story. It just wasn't enough for me to love it!

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  6. I have yet to read this one, but so far, reviews for it have been about average. I do still want to give it a shot though, because it's Ann Brashares! We're actually opposites - I've read the Sisterhood novels, but never read the adult books she's written. Before I end this, just want to say that I'm glad to be forewarned about the instalove and perhaps lack of purpose in resolving the situation they're facing!

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    1. Oh I definitely say it's worth giving it a shot! It's not horrible by any means. I was intrigued the whole time I was reading and never considered not finishing it. It was just a bit lacking overall!

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  7. I don't know if I thought their love was instant because it was brewing long before they started talking or went on this quest together. There was something beautiful about it, and I got that they were into each other but I think your point about the characters not being developed enough on their own PLUS the mystery surrounding everything made it hard to contact at times. Brashares writing is so fluid that maybe it tricked me into feeling in love with them being in love. But then again, Prenna is truly starved of this kind of affection since everyone in her community is so hands off so maybe that contributed to it too?

    Ny Name is Memory was a planned trilogy but because it didn't make a lot of money, they cancelled it all together. I just published my review for THAN today and I saw MNIM at the used bookstore and for some reason I felt like they were VERY similar. I want to do a reread but I really don't want to buy the second book. Maybe library it sometime soon?

    It's a shame this book was missing something because with her name on it it's highly anticipated but there were so many holes that needed to be filled and deserved to be filled with her writing and development. I'm not sure what happened here.

    Obv I have lots of thoughts ;)

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    1. I totally get that point! I think the only reason it felt kinda instant to me (even with their background) was just that the characters individually didn't get explored that much so I felt like I wasn't even getting a good sense of who they were, let alone why they liked each other. If the characters had been fleshed out a bit more, I don't think I would have thought much about the romance.

      I want to do a re-read of MNIM because I felt like it was similar to THAN, too, but I couldn't decide if that's just because they both involved time travel. My memory is so fuzzy on MNIM because it's been so long since I read it. I'm sad the pub didn't want to continue with it! I would have loved to get a little resolution on that story.

      I think this one had the right foundation. It could have been a really great book! I think the fact that it all seemed a bit undeveloped is a big reason it's been so disappointing :/

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  8. Oh, totally up in the air about this one...meh...glad I didn't request this one. Again, I'm using you as a test dummy...a very pretty and smart and witty test dummy :)

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    1. Haha! Yes, I'd tell you to pass on this one. It really wasn't bad, but I don't think you'd like it.

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