Review of The Future of Us

The Future of Us by Jay Ascher and Carolyn Mackler

Josh and Emma are about to discover themselves—fifteen years in the future.

It’s 1996, and Josh and Emma have been neighbors their whole lives. They’ve been best friends almost as long—at least, up until last November, when everything changed. Things have been awkward ever since then, but when Josh’s family gets a free AOL CD-ROM in the mail, his mom makes him bring it over so that Emma can install it on her new computer. When they sign on, they’re automatically logged onto Facebook. but Facebook hasn’t been invented yet. Josh and Emma are looking at themselves fifteen years in the future. Their spouses, careers, homes, and status updates—it’s all there. And every time they refresh their pages, their futures change. As they grapple with the ups and downs of their future, they’re forced to confront what they’re doing right—and wrong—in the present. – from Wikipedia

I have to give this a slightly less than perfect score of 4 & 1/2 stars for a specific reason – Dave Matthews.

Look, if Josh is a skater, he’s not going to be into a girl who likes Dave Matthews. And no one in the 90s would make a mix tape of Alanis Morissette, Dave Matthews, and Pearl Jam! That’s not even in the same category. The 90s were about breaking into new genres that was all “alternative,” but that wishy-washy, radio-friendly stuff was not good. 1996 had so much more to offer than that, for crying out loud! Smashing Pumpkins had released 1979 as a single, for instance, and Rage Against the Machine had Bulls on Parade. That will always outshine Dave Matthews, I don’t care if some preppy misogynist character like Cody Grainger tries to convince us that a bootleg copy of Crash Into Me has some amazing guitar work. No, just no. Not even close.

Granted, not everyone’s 90s experience or musical tastes are the same, but only middle of the road people at that time wouldn’t have a strong connection to a ground breaking band. I can’t like Emma because she likes Dave Matthews. A lot. It’s discussed way, way too much in the book. I’m guessing that one or both of the authors really, really like his music and may have never given Lollapalooza a try.

Plus, were we supposed to think that Emma was ironic or just plain boring for not liking Wayne’s World?

Some other reviewers said they didn’t like Emma being such a spoiled brat who didn’t change at all through the whole book. I quite agree. I didn’t hate her, but she didn’t seem good enough for Josh. The plot was predictable, but I still found it engaging. It took me a day & 1/2 to finish because it was easy to get in to. I think it speaks to a very certain age group. I graduated in 1994, so the book was pointing just past the Nirvana era. I think that’s why I was a bit critical of the stereotypical push to discuss the 90s with the over-use of Dave Matthew-isms. It seems less authentic than if they had been all over the shop with 90s references instead of sticking with the same, boring thing.

My other main criticism that I also agree with from Goodreads, is just how the idea was executed. Would two kids really be able to accept the technology so easily? Would 16 year old care about their future that much? They’d have to be less angsty, focused on school, then aim for their future college, life, etc. I mean, the book references Back to the Future, but Marty was dealing with saving Doc, his family, and the whole town. Most 16 year olds wouldn’t be that apt to plan out their future.

Unless they listen to Dave Matthews, I guess.

I liked Carolyn Mackler’s The Earth, My Butt…, but I didn’t dig Jay Ascher’s Thirteen Reasons Why because of the back and forth switch in narrative. (I hear it’s easier to listen to on audiobook, so I’ll try that later.) But both authors are older than me, so I’m going to assume that they’re taking researched information on a 16 year old’s 1996 experience, and making it mild because it will connect to a wider audience.

All in all, I liked the book, but I didn’t feel really emotionally moved by it. It was a quick read, which makes it good in its own right. Great book, it just had some glaring problems that I couldn’t get past. I’d still recommend it to teen readers (then I’d hand them a decent 90s mix tape.) I also appreciate the fact that I bought the print version of this, just to feel old school.

And one last thing:

Marvin the Martian on a skateboard is from Clueless, if no one else noticed.

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