The Future of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler

the future of us by jay asher and carolyn mackler Publication year: 2011
Genre: Young Adult
Time and place: US, 1996
Narrated in: first-person
First sentence:In 1996 less than half of all American high school students had ever used the Internet.
Verdict: Disappointing.

Summary
The year is 1996 and Emma is the proud new owner of a computer connected to the Internet. A momentous event, but also with a touch of unexpected: the first web page she sees is a strange-looking site called Facebook, where someone that looks remarkably like an older Emma (with the same name and birthday too) keeps sharing minute details of her life.

Together with Josh, her now-estranged childhood friend and the only one she told about the odd website, Emma has to decide what to do next. For some random reason she’s been granted a window into her future, and it looks like that future is less than ideal. Could it be changed for the better? And if so, how?

General impression
An interesting premise, but poorly executed.

What do you do when you get to see how radically each of your decisions affects the future?

That is the dilemma our main character, Emma, finds herself in. Thing is, in her case, all her options were sort of equal — each new version of the future ends up apparently just as bad as the one before (well, as much as one can tell from one or two Facebook statuses, and this is in itself quite debatable1 ). Which means that Emma was free to mess around with the future, as she had nothing important to lose. I would have liked it more if at least one of the versions would have been extremely something (either very good or very bad), to add some stakes to the story; as it is all I could think of is “meh” (and the fact that I didn’t like Emma didn’t help).

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Characters
Worst characters ever. While I am by no means a fan of YA, this book made me want to leave YA books aside once and for all.

All Emma can ever think about is boys. Boys, boys, and more boys. As the book opens she’s in a sort of casual relationship with one guy, while she dreams about another (and when the book ends she’ll end up with a third). And what is more, the one thing she can do is whine. Faced with a chance to see her future (everyone’s future actually, as most of her acquaintances will have a Facebook account too), all she cares about is the man she is going to marry. She’s also shallow, very quick to jump to conclusions, very selfish, and even goes as far as to reproach Josh that he’ll have a good life and she won’t (“So you get to live in a huge house on the lake, and I have to stay cooped inside. That sounds fair.“). To top it all off, she has no redeeming qualities whatsoever, so by the end of the book I didn’t actually care whether she lived or died.

Josh is an okay guy, but he’s also quite uni-dimensional. He had a crush on Emma a while ago, and now, as he discovers he will marry the most popular girl in school, starts being very interested in her (prior to that he thought himself too out of her league for that). Which means that he too has very little else on his mind but girls, but somehow in his case it seemed a bit more bearable (as one of them was his childhood friend and the other his future wife and mother of his kids). I could see myself liking Josh if he wasn’t a bit of a doormat where Emma was concerned (he does stand up to her at least once but folds soon after).

Another thing that I wasn’t crazy about is how similar the voices of the two narrators are. If we don’t take into account that all Emma thinks is Cody-Cody-Cody and all Josh thinks is Emma-Sydney-Sydney-Emma, the two voices were practically alike. So much so that I was confused more than once because I thought I was reading Emma’s POV and I was reading Josh’s, or viceversa.

The one character that I did like was Sydney, the popular girl that Josh will supposedly marry. She comes from a rich family, but she’s very down to earth and overall a nice girl — I even liked the fact that she’s still on very good terms with her ex boyfriend. I am glad that the authors chose not to go the route of having her be the bitchy cheerleader type, and I would have liked to see her a bit more fleshed out.

Plot
There is disappointingly little plot to the book. Basically it’s all a series of attempts of Emma’s to keep her future from happening, while at the same time Josh is trying to take steps towards his. And none of the two makes particularly good progress, oh my.

And then there are also some minor subplots, having to do with things that Josh and Emma have seen on Facebook about the future of his brother and her best friend respectively. These are both left hanging, which is a bit strange particularly in the case of the latter, as we’re talking about a (sort of) regrettable event that is supposed to happen one of those very days, so if there ever was a time for Emma to put her Facebook-offered knowledge to good use now it would have been it.

Thoughts on the ending
Completely unsurprising.

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Recommend it to?
People who like high school stories with shallow characters, I guess. There are many people on goodreads.com who have enjoyed this, so in the end it’s all a matter of taste.

Buy this from amazon.com | Buy this from bookdepository.co.uk | Jay Asher’s website | Carolyn Mackler’s website | Jay Asher on Twitter | Carolyn Mackler on Twitter

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  1. especially as Emma is very quick to judge; my favorite moment is when she sees her status being something like “went to [my husband]‘s favorite restaurant” and she quickly concluded that she must be unhappy and he must be a bad husband, because they didn’t go to her favorite restaurant but his []

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