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.
"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.