Title: The Here and Now
Author: Ann Brashares
Genre: Young Adult | Sci-Fi
Synopsis: 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.
Final Rating: ★★★☆☆
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I received a free copy from the publisher on Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.
Let me start off by saying that this book has one of my favorite covers ever. It’s beautifully designed, the colors complement each other brilliantly, and I would love for this fabulous book to be on my shelf.
But whereas the cover is absolutely stunning, the plot was not. It wasn’t a bad book, but it wasn’t very good either. It was fast-paced and good entertainment, but it fell flat in a lot of places.
The premise was promising. I’m very intrigued by books involving time travelers and secret communities. What’s not to love? But even though the premise was interesting, I thought that it wasn’t carried out very well. For example, there was a lot of info-dumping. There would be five or six pages of our main character, Prenna, telling us or another character about the future. It got very confusing, because there was just so much information that was just there rather than being integrated into the story. I find that in books like this, flashbacks work very well, and I felt that Brashares should have utilized flashbacks. It would’ve been very effective.
I also thought that I didn’t get enough sense about what had happened in the future. There was a plague which was some form of dengue fever. Now, I’ve lived in Pakistan for most of my life, and there was a serious dengue fever outbreak in 2012 and 2013. I knew so many people that were getting sick, getting put in hospitals, and the news would report a few deaths a week. But dengue can be treated very easily. So I find it hard to believe that if in the future, you have technology where you can eat as much as you want without getting fat, you can’t fix dengue fever. Even in third-world countries like Pakistan, dengue fever isn’t really that big of an issue. But in the future it is? Hmm…
Also, we never were given information about how many people died from the plague. The travelers that immigrated to the past- why were they chosen to immigrate? HOW did they immigrate? For a primarily science fiction novel, there wasn’t a lot of science-y, essential information.
I also felt that the book was too short considering the amount of information there was in it. Science fiction novels always work best if they are lengthy, and well fleshed-out. If Brashares had spent some time fleshing out the traveler community, of giving a deeper picture of the future, of planning out the intricacies of time travel, I might have liked this novel a lot more. But I felt that instead of spending time where it needed to be spent, Brashares put a lot of detail into the romance, which I felt was unnecessary.
Having said that, the book was good entertainment. It was fast-paced, and I wasn’t bored throughout it at all. Confused, yes, but never bored.
I had some problems with the characters as well. I thought that Brashares would tell her audience what the character’s main trait was, but it never actually showed in the story. For example, we are told from the very start that Prenna has an extraordinary intelligence, but I disagree. She made some pretty bad decisions throughout the book that any intelligent person could have avoided.
I had some problems with Ethan’s character as well. I thought that instead of being a well-developed, well-crafted character, he was just a prop for Prenna’s story. He was like her lap dog, there for her whenever she needed something. He didn’t have a refined personality.
A lot of the secondary characters were bothersome as well. Katherine, Prenna’s best friend, shows up twice or thrice in the novel. We’re expected to be invested in her storyline, but I just wasn’t. Because she was like a mannequin who could talk- we literally know NOTHING else about her. That was a bummer.
Since I’m the kind of person who depends a lot on characterization in a book, maybe that’s why I didn’t enjoy this book as much as other people have.
I don’t like criticizing authors’ writing styles, because it’s completely subjective. It all depends on what YOU prefer to read, what speaks to YOU most. But in my opinion, Brashares writing isn’t anything special. I thought the dialogue was a little cliché. The language was very “meh” too. It didn’t really inspire me.
However, I will say that Brashares has the ability to set up an ambience very well. There was a very clear, somber tone to the novel that had me keep reading. I also thought that even though some of the language was cliché, Brashares thinks outside the box and can make decisions for her characters that aren’t particularly “safe,” and I appreciate and respect that. I wasn’t expecting that end, but when I think about it, I like the way it ended. It was different, but refreshing.
Would I re-read? No, it just wasn’t for me.
Would I recommend? Whereas I didn’t particularly love this novel, I have an idea of an audience that will absolutely adore it. So of course, it depends on who’s asking for the recommendation, but I can think of a lot of people that I would recommend this to.