Title: The Here and Now
Author: Ann Brashares
Release Date: Available
In Ann Brashares’ bleak vision of the future, humanity has been near extinguished thanks to a mosquito-borne virus that’s decimated the population and left the rest in ruins. Facing extinction, the only hope of survival lies in the past — in attempting to somehow prevent the future before it occurs.
Prenna James belongs to the group of survivors sent back in time — strong-willed and stubborn, Prenna finds it difficult to consistently comply with the strict and structured rules of her community. While the survivors have assimilated into present day society, due to the inherent risks, contact outside of the community is kept to a minimum and relationships are strictly prohibited. For Prenna, this rule is made infinitely more complicated by her classmate and friend, Ethan Jarves, who, unbeknownst to Prenna, has a few secrets of his own. But despite the complications plaguing her life, things don’t truly start spiraling out of control until a seemingly insane homeless man confronts Prenna, not just aware of where and when she comes from, but aware of the date that changes everything.
With that information in hand and with the threat of humanity’s existence hanging over her head, Prenna and Ethan are left trying to fit the pieces together, to make sense of the ambiguity and obscurity and determine the cataclysmic event that could change and save the future.
Overall, I found The Here and Now to be enjoyable and compelling and unique. I loved the glimpses Brashares’ gave of the apocalyptic future, as well as the snippets of history that lead up to the disaster — it was plausible and interesting and I wish there’d been the opportunity to learn more about the world Prenna came from. Retrospectively, the time travel angle gets a bit messy and confusing and paradoxical in terms of the various branching timelines that occur, and I wish I could have learned more about the science and details and explanations — but I also understand how complicated and tricky such explanations can be. As for the characters — I thought Prenna and Ethan were both well developed and complex, and in particular, I thought Ethan was engaging and interesting, however some of the supporting cast lacked dimension and falls a little flat in comparison.
While The Here and Now is primarily marketed as a ‘forbidden romance’, I think that label is a little misleading. Yes, the romance between Ethan and Prenna grows and develops and is an important part of the plot, but it doesn’t dominate the story and is, in my opinion, far less significant than their primary challenge to save the future. Both plot lines are given equal attention, and support the other, and I appreciated that the romance was important and relevant without overwhelming the rest of the story — the balance between the two was perfectly executed.
Considering the overwhelming numbers of young adult novels that are beginning to blur and fade into one another, Ann Brashares has presented something new and captivating, with innovative details and compelling characters. A quick, but entertaining read.
Review by Kayla
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