Title: The Future of Us
Author: Jay Asher & Carolyn Mackler
Release Date: November 21, 2011
Rating: 4 out of 5
The year is 1996 and the internet is just starting to become popular. For teens Emma and Josh, they instant message with friends and set up email accounts using AOL’s free trial. But when Emma stumbles upon an unfamiliar site, blue and white with the word Facebook in the corner, she’s baffled. She’s even more confused when she sees herself, fifteen years from now and miserable. Emma vows that she will not let herself become that sad woman and tries to change her future, heedless of what else she might be creating or destroying.
Though The Future of Us is a YA novel, aimed at teens, in some ways I feel that’s not its actual audience. Instead, I think that my generation is the target audience for the book – those of us who were teenagers in the mid-nineties, who remember the free AOL CD’s, spend hours on AOL Instant Messaging, and lived for the “You’ve Got Mail!” chime when we logged into the program. While teens now probably can’t fathom living without always-on internet and Facebook, I can very much imagine how I’d feel as a teen, logging into AOL and seeing my current Facebook profile.
While I think I’d be very pleased with what I found, Emma is not. It’s not that she’s not popular or she’s picked on in school, quite the opposite, in fact. But she hasn’t found real satisfaction in her life. She doesn’t really like the guys she dates and she reassures herself by thinking that her post-high school life will be fulfilling and happy. When she discovers her future self on Facebook and finds that all is not well, she’s understandably shattered. She decides to change her future and does so in very clever ways.
It’s amazing how much The Future of Us feels like the ‘90s. From the pop culture references to the technology, Asher and Mackler really do an excellent job bringing that period to life. I was constantly chuckling at the book, recognizing people I knew back in high school in the characters. There is a bit of teen angst that I didn’t love in the book, but overall, Asher and Mackler do an excellent job probing the meaning of happiness. What does it mean to be happy, and what are the consequences of each small action we take, or those we choose not to? I loved this discussion, as well as the thoughts it provoked as I was reading.
Overall, The Future of Us is a fun, enjoyable read that readers who remember the ‘90s fondly will love. Though it is a YA book with teenage characters, I’m not sure how much today’s teens will get out of it, as they may become bored with the constant references to pop culture they don’t understand. Emma and Josh are solid characters, though not without their overly fair share of angst; I enjoyed this trip down memory lane and appreciate that the authors took so much care in bringing my teenage years to life in this book.
Other books by Jay Asher: