The Here and Now
By Ann Brashares
Published 2014 by Delacorte Press
Prenna is a time immigrant - she, along with many others, came to our present from a terrible future, hoping that they might figure out how to fix it. But Prenna has been forced to live according to a set of rules and they no longer seem worth following. Soon, her feelings for a time native - Ethan - will lead her on a path of rule-breaking that may just be the right path to follow after all.
Okay, I'm going to get my little bias out of the way right off the bat here: time travel. Quite frankly, it usually just bothers the hell out of me because I can't wrap my mind around how it works. I don't usually watch shows involving time travel or read books that include it either. To give a brief example, The Time Traveler's Wife made me angry most of the time and A Wrinkle in Time is one of my most reviled books from childhood.
So, maybe this book and I were not made for each other from the start. However, a little perusing of other reviews as well as the trusted opinion of a friend and colleague lead me to believe that, in this situation, it's not just me. It is this book.
This book is just all kinds of wrong. Thankfully, for me, Brashares doesn't spend time explaining how time travel works, instead relying on a fabricated set of rules that Prenna and the others must follow in order to keep history intact. What Brashares focuses on is Prenna and her intuition that she must be the one to do something, to alter the course of the future so that maybe it won't be as terrible as she knows it to be.
The entire premise of this book is really built upon some coincidences. For example, Prenna just happens to land in 2010 right in front of Ethan, the boy she'll fall in love with later on, despite the fact that none of the other 100 or so travellers were seen by anyone. Awfully convenient, no? Additionally, Ethan just happens to befriend a strange homeless man who ends up being someone Prenna should know. Yes, Brashares explains that he was staying close to Prenna to make sure she remained safe. But what high school kid befriends a weird homeless guy?
What really hurts my heart about this book is the dialogue. Brashares wrote the hugely successful Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series, which I read and loved as a teenager. She clearly knows how to write teens well. You would never believe that from reading this book. The dialogue is stilted, forced, and completely unrealistic - no teenager talks this way. She tries to give a flimsy explanation - the people of the future have a completely different way of talking, so Prenna has taken her conversational cues from sitcoms and teen shows - but that really doesn't explain why her speech sounds the way it does. Additionally, Ethan, a "time native," sounds just as false as Prenna does. What happened here, Ms. Brashares?
Prenna and Ethan, of course, fall in love. I think we are supposed to believe that it's not an insta-love situation because they've been friends for sometime prior to the start of the novel. But since we don't see any of this friendship, it still feels like insta-love.
There are many more plot holes and gaps in explanation, both large and small, that make me question how someone thought this book was ready for publication. I can applaud Brashares for trying her hand at something different. It's unfortunate that she wasn't successful.
Thanks to the publisher for an advance reader's copy.