Title: The Here and Now
Author: Ann Brashares
Genre: Young Adult, Dystopian, Time-Travel, Science Fiction, Romance
Rating: 3 Stars
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.
WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW
The Here and Now at it’s heart is a story about Prenna, a teenage girl from the not-so-distant future who travels back in time—to our time—in order to escape the devastating plagues and global climate changes that have destroyed her world. Her society is one that lives in fear of the slightest touch and the germs it could spread. Children are kept in doors, out of schools, and are taught never to touch another human being—not even their family. Obviously, coming to our time period was a bit of an adjustment.
The book follows Prenna’s journey as she tries to blend in with the native population of 2010… and it isn’t easy. Her people are monitored in everything they do, and punishment for breaking the twelve rules of time travel are harsh. Prenna chafes under the unforgiving rule of her leaders, and like most teenagers, is eager to escape. And then there’s Ethan: the local native boy who has his eyes and heart firmly set on Prenna no matter how hard she tries to go unnoticed.
The premise was fascinating, and a little terrifying to be honest. It isn’t a stretch to imagine Prenna’s world. Her world, is our world. Give it another 100 years, and we’ll be there—and that is what is so frightening about this book. It isn’t far-fetched (okay minus the time travel). Global Warming is a thing. Super Virus’ are a thing. This could easily happen to us, and to Prenna, it has. The warnings this book gives: that we are currently a world full of people who are fully aware that our environment is on it’s last legs, and still we’re doing nothing about it… completely true. It’s a sobering thought.
Unfortunately, as much as I truly adored the premise for this story—and believe me, I could go on for hours about the parallels between the story and the reality of our planet right now—the romance and character development within the story fell flat.
First of all, let me state that the book was written in first person, present tense. Or at least it tried to be. The first-person POV didn’t bother me, but the tense had me pulling out my hair. It seemed to switch back and forth at random intervals between present and past tense for no obvious reason, leaving the narrative feeling disjointed at time. Also, the copy of the story that I received from NetGalley was an uncorrected proof and rife with grammatical errors at times. Example:
He saw the strange the atmosphere at the end of the time path.
That’s a quote from Chapter Twenty-Two (Location 2511 on the Kindle). I’ll give it some leeway because it was an uncorrected proof, but that doesn’t excuse the clinical feel of the narrative. The story was written in a very dry manner. The sentences were concise and clear. That isn’t a bad thing—but it lacked a certain ease of flow. There wasn’t a lot of description, emotion, or senses included in the narrative, and it left the narrative feeling almost over-edited in a way. I felt I was reading the dry, bleached bones of the story after all of the tender meat and tasty fat had been trimmed off.
This also extended into the character development. I don’t have a particular gripe about any of the characters. They were fine. I just didn’t feel connected to any of them. It was almost as if Prenna and Ethan were secondary characters in a scene. Instead of standing center stage, they seemed to take up space in the scenes and react to whatever was thrown their way. They didn’t feel like active characters. It’s hard to like, or even hate, a character you feel no attachment to. The actual secondary characters (especially the villains and Katherine) barely had enough personality between them to create a blip on the radar. They seemed to exist because the story needed characters, but none of them felt like real people with real motivations. They were names on a page, and only that.
Overall the story was a bit of a mixed bag. I really liked the concept of the plot and the world building, but the characters and the style the story was written in made it bland. I really wish the author had spent more time fleshing out the characters and the style of the narrative. This could have been an excellent book. Did I like it? Yes. Would I read it again? Maybe. Would I recommend it to others? Eh. Maybe not. I think it’s a good discussion piece. It could spur on some really interesting conversation about the society Prenna lived in and the future of our planet, but there was so little depth to the characters that outside of a very academic view of the story, I don’t know that I’d consider this a good read.