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About the book
The Future of Us is a stand-alone YA novel by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler. It was published on 5th January by Simon and Schuster and the book is 368 pages long.
Synopsis (Taken from Goodreads.com)
It's 1996 and very few high school students have ever used the internet. Facebook will not be invented until several years in the future. Emma just got a computer and an America Online CD. She and her best friend Josh power it up and log on - and discover themselves on Facebook in 2011. Everybody wonders what they'll be like fifteen years in the future. Josh and Emma are about to find out.
What I thought
I really liked the idea of this book. Facebook is such a big thing now and pretty much everyone has it so for people to be able to see it in the past, when it wasn't invented, was something that interested me. This book gives a different form of time travel and not the normal way, which is why I wanted to read it.
Main characters Emma and Josh stumble upon Facebook when they use an AOL trial on a new computer. The internet at this time isn't something that is in all houses nor do people have mobile phones etc. The year is 1996 and things are very different from how they are now. The story shows what life was like before the internet with boys rolling around on skateboards and people waiting by their telephones for hours before someone would actually call. Even then, there was no caller display. The use (or lack of) technology was a great thing in this book and was spot on in regards to the time the book is set.
The book is told through dual narratives from both Emma and Josh which was a nice touch. I like this being done in books as it means you really get to know both main characters well. Emma was a little hard to warm to as she seemed quite shallow at times but Josh was nothing but sweet and lovely. The characters have a past which makes things slightly awkward between them at times but I liked this. It meant that the story wasn't only about Facebook and there was a lot more going on throughout. Emma and Josh were great people to tell this story as both were different and they both had different views on things.
As Emma and Josh get to see into the lives of their future selves through Facebook, I wasn't sure how this would work of affect things. Little things that either Emma and Josh do change what their future selves say and do on Facebook and it also affects major decisions in the lives. I really liked how one little movement or thought could change everything in the future. The Future of Us really made me think about actions and consequences and how the smallest of things can affect everything.
All in all, The Future of Us was an interesting read that was quick and easy. It had an interesting plot and good characters which made me want the best outcome for them. The use of Facebook was different and new, which makes the book stand out in comparison to others.
It's 1996. You're about to log onto the Internet for the very first time. The World Wide Web is about to be opened up to you...exciting right? Imagine though if that very first time you were faced with a strange website called Facebook, and even stranger it seems to be you updating it...well your future self that is.
That's exactly what happens when Emma receives her first desktop from her Dad. Confused to begin with, she calls in Josh, life long neighbour and friend to take a look. At first he's convinced someone's playing a prank...until they discover Emma's friends list and realise he also has a page. As it dawns that this is themselves, fifteen years in their future, they both feel very different about what they see. While Josh can't believe he's married to the most popular girl in school, Emma's concerned by her clearly miserable and lonely life. When she realises decisions she makes now can affect the future according to Facebook she becomes obsessed. But knowing the future is a dangerous thing. Changing it might be even worse.
This book appealed on so many levels I just had to get a copy as soon as it was released. I was a teen when the Internet first arrived in homes and schools and can distinctly remember loading up cd-roms and painfully waiting for dial up pages to load. The Future Of Us was certainly a nostalgia trip for me, even down to the fashions, TV shows and Discmans.
The idea of coming across Facebook before it was even invented and seeing your future life played out was genius. Who wouldn't be tempted by that? Emma and Josh's perplexity at the things they were posting about in the future was hilarious. If someone had described Facebook to me fifteen years ago I'd probably have thought it sounded ridiculous too.
Aside from the nostalgia I was also intrigued by the time slip element in this book. Emma becomes obsessed with changing her future and then checking its implications on Facebook and I thought this would be fascinating. Unfortunately I think a massive opportunity was missed here to make this book brilliant. The idea is fantastic, the execution is disappointing and the authors just don't explore things enough. It's all very surface, I wanted to know so much more. Why did this happen? What are the far-reaching repercussions? What do the characters learn from it all? The opportunity to change your future is unbelievably fascinating but sadly, all Emma comes across in being interested in is which guy she ends up with.
I also felt I just didn't connect with either of the characters. The book is told from both Josh and Emma's viewpoint and is written by two authors. I've no idea which parts were written by whom, whether they each wrote a character or contributed to both so I don't think the issue was down to two styles not meshing. I think it's down to a lack of depth and detailing. By the end I had no idea why this pair were as connected as they were. I also wonder how teens today will relate to this book; after all it's aimed at them yet the most enjoyable part of it for me was the 90's nostalgia. I'm not convinced they'll truly get it.
If you take The Future Of Us as a piece of easy, fluffy story telling then it's an enjoyable read. I can't deny I flew through it in a couple of hours. If you start scratching the surface though then you realise there's a lot of faults. Not least the ease with which Emma accepts Facebook in the first place and understands it's from her own future (or the fact that no-one would surely wait for facebook to load on dial up in the first place...I mean can you imagine it?) I found this an easy and entertaining enough read, but ultimately unsatisfying. I rated this book as three stars on goodreads when I finished reading it, now as I write my review I realise it has pretty big flaws and think I was possibly a little generous. If you find yourself with a copy of The Future Of Us I'd say as a quick easy read it does the job. On the other hand I wouldn't recommend this as a must read and overall it was a disappointment.
Published January 2012 by Simon & Schuster Children's books (UK)
Imagine if you could log onto Facebook and see into your future. Would you do it? And what if you weren't happy with what you saw? That's the situation Emma Nelson, high school senior, finds herself in when she is sent a computer from her estranged father and is given a free trial for AOL.
It's the 90s, Facebook wasn't even INVENTED and the majority of teenagers didn't even have an email address. So when Emma's neighbour and former best friend Josh, who she has grown distant from, brings over a CD Rom for AOL, she's slightly puzzled when the first thing that pops onto the screen is Facebook. And puzzled soon turns to panicked when she realises that she is looking at herself, in the future.
Asking Josh to come and have a look, and discovering that he has a Facebook page too, at first they believe it has to be a prank. That someone has Photoshopped a few pictures and somehow planted them onto the CD Rom. It's not until the following day when everything on Facebook has changed that they realise this is far too elaborate to be someone else's doing, that they actually ARE seeing into the future.
And do they like it? Josh's future, although it alters slightly with each log-in, is pretty idyllic. Yet Emma never seems to be happy, no matter who she ends up marrying or where she lives, and she sets about to change the future as the little ripples of her every action alter the course of her future life, which she learns about as status updates and pictures. Ultimately, she learns a lesson about the way she is behaving in the present day.
Although Jay Asher has only written one other book, I really enjoyed it and was looking forward to this coming out as the concept is really different to anything else I've read. I've heard talk that they will be making a movie, too, and I think it would be a really great idea for one. This book is co-written with Carolyn Mackler, although I'm not too sure on the details of that. The chapters alternate between Josh and Emma, so I'm not sure if one was taking over each character, but they really have similar writing styles. I honestly wouldn't have been able to tell that there were two authors if it didn't say so on the cover. This is great, as I hate reading something that is disjointed, even if that does mean that both characters have pretty similar voices in their chapters.
Although the book is centred around Emma and Josh, we do get to meet their best friends Kellan and Tyson, and their love interests, and their families. I'll admit that I wasn't overly keen on Emma, and found her quite selfish, although this is ultimately reflected in the book. There are several nice subplots drawing all of the characters in to the story, so it was an interesting read that wasn't solely about two people, but rather how everyone's lives intersect with each other.
I found the book to be extremely smart and a great idea, not to mention how thought-provoking it is. It's a pretty mindblowing idea to think about what would happen if this really existed, and what one might find. I found the ending to be meaningful and I was pleased with the way it ended, which I'm relieved about, having read the whole thing in a day it would have been quite disappointing for it to fall flat.
My only minor niggle is that this book is set in the 90s, and there are a lot of cliches. Yes, it is remniscent of that time and it does remind me that I was listening to some of the same music, or watching the same movies, around the same time as the internet was first taking off. So I can relate, but at the same time it does feel slightly gimmicky at times. I do think that this would perhaps be more understandable through the media of film, so we'll see when that comes out.
This is such a cute book, and despite being an easy, quick read does have a thought-provoking message and is really interesting. Although it's in the young adult genre, I'd recommend it for adults too but especially Facebook-addicted teens. Unfortunately this is not yet released here in the UK (I read an ebook version) but will be out on 5th January so is one to watch for. Amazon have it on pre-order for £5.24. A unique, interesting book, and I look forward to Jay Asher's next offering.