Book Review: Ann Brashares’ The Here and Now

Posted April 2, 2014 by Kathy Davie in

I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review: Ann Brashares’ The Here and NowThe Here and Now on April 8, 2014 and has 256 pages.

Explore it on Goodreads or Amazon.

five-stars

A romantic thriller for Young Adults revolving around time traveler Prenna James and an insightful Ethan Jarves just outside New York City, which I received as an ARC from the publisher.

My Take

A very good story, it all takes place at a mid-level depth; enough to pull you in and almost bring you to tears, but not deep enough to bring about nightmares. Well, unless you consider the environmental damage we keep inflicting.

It’s part of the realism Brashares brings in, and it starts with Ethan’s trip to the creek, a place to which he’s always followed his dad. At first it irritated me. How could he not know how to get there? But then I thought of the number of times I’ve gotten lost going to a place I’ve been many times before, but had always followed someone or been driven. And this level of realism follows throughout with only the occasional blip.

More realism and the major conflict in the story revolves around the damage we’re doing to our planet as Brashares points out our short-term stupidity. Our who cares attitude, even though we [so Brashares says] accurately pinpoint when and what will happen to our planet. Still, the point she makes in The Here and Now is how unwilling we are to make the big changes NOW that will help our grandchildren survive. After all we won’t be the ones who have to clean it up. Who have to hope to survive what we’ve done to our world. And it must be a human flaw, since the ones who are most affected by this shortsightedness fall right into the same trap.

Brashares pulls in enough of the fun futuristic as well that only points up what is lost. I can definitely see the attraction of the fat pills and surgeries! The funny bit, and it does make an awful sense, Prenna points out how unnecessary this dieting obsession was when food production failed throughout the world. The contrast in have and have-not when she talks about the good: the iMemory, kind of like Facebook on major steroids with invisible Google Glass and her insight on paper with it’s concrete qualities — a complete contrast with another novel I’ve started reading in which disappearing paper is seen as a positive. The bad is exemplified by the boots Prenna follows. Her fascination with them. If that doesn’t bring it home in how lacking their society became.

It was also fun to view the negatives and positives of our society through Prenna’s eyes. The things we take for granted like touching and hugging each other, being able to go outside, the mass quantities of food and merchandise that are available to us, our annoyance with mosquitoes simply because their bites itch, decorating for Christmas, and more. The unsent letters to her baby brother into which she spills her wonder about this new world in which she lives.

I liked the use of the church for their meetings and Rules Ceremony. So appropriate when you consider adhering to the rules, their thanksgiving for getting here, and the sins they face could all be considered religious experiences. I do understand Prenna’s sarcasm about the love fest after the ceremony, though.

The conflict for Prenna is Ethan and that exists on so many levels. His finding her at the beginning, the injunctions against getting close to anyone in the present, and her attraction to him.

“We also wreck the planet for our own habitation and the mosquito will win.” Huh, I always thought it would be the cockroaches…

I love Ethan’s patience. That he simply accepts what Prenna can give him while he gives her knowledge. How to play card games so she’ll fit in. And it’s a tactic he’ll use to slip inside her defenses.

A few weak points are when Prenna is in the park with the dying man. Suddenly she realizes who he is, and I have absolutely no clue how she figures this out. I also wish Brashares had intensified the drama of what led to the pandemics that ravaged the future. Instead, the realization simply floats along, along with its ramifications for Prenna and Ethan. I don’t really understand why Prenna never picked up on how it would affect her and her personal future, as it seemed incredibly obvious. I’d also like a reason besides slothful enjoyment for why the immigrants have slid as they have. They know what’s coming, so why aren’t they doing anything about it? I don’t get it? She questions Mr. Robert and his tics, so it would make sense if Prenna were to question her memories as well. Instead she simply lists them? Why doesn’t she wonder what those procedures and pills are really for? She’s a very smart girl — as evidenced by how she words the ultimatums she lays down.

This cracks me up:

“Whenever he [Mr. Robert] starts a sentence with my name, I know he’s lying. Whenever he starts a sentence with a word other than my name, I know he’s lying.”

Whoa, the drawing Ethan made…there’s such hope in that. Brashares better be planning book 2!

Oh, man, that cracked me up: “You can’t even look up tomorrow. Who says the Internet is boundless?”

That paragraph on happiness made me consider the many philosophical thoughts sprinkled throughout. I think it’s what gives this story its sense of floatiness, what makes me think. It also makes me think this would be a great book for kids to read in school or with a group of friends who would discuss the points that Prenna makes in here.

“‘If this is casual, what do you call intimate?’

‘I was just about to show you that.'”

What Prenna learns in the paper — and doesn’t tell Ethan — is INTENSE. And out of place with its intensity. It is ideal and Brashares handles it well, except that this is the most intense part of the story. I would have liked to see this balanced with other intense scenes throughout.

If the pills are to ensure that none of the immigrants have children, and they’re not doing anything to prevent what will happen, what’s the point of them coming back from the future?

The Story

It’s a dystopian nightmare Prenna and her people have fled. Coming from the near future, they hope to change the events that lead to the end of humanity, but the here and now turns out to be too comfortable.

Instead life becomes an Orwellian nightmare of surveillance — and punishments.

The Characters

Prenna James is 16 years old and working hard to fit in. Molly is her doctor mother, respected in her own time, and sidelined in this one. Julius is the baby brother who died. Jonathan Santander is Poppy, her father, who chose not to come.

Ethan Jarves, who found that fishing can mean catching more than just a meal, is both patient and inquisitive, fascinated by physics, string theory, and quantum gravity, and an anomaly even in his own time since he’s both popular and a nerd. I love his appreciation for his grandparents on both sides of the family and their battles in defense and for independence. He doesn’t appreciate his dad so much; he’s simply an accountant at Ernst and Young. His mom is a designer. Ben Kenobi is a homeless man whom Ethan befriends.

Dr. Mona Ghali is a physicist who specializes in wave technology, harnessing the energy of the ocean. Jack Bonning is an IT guy who works for Dr. Ghali’s company. Andrew Baltos is Ghali’s boyfriend. He was also friendly with Theresa Hunt, who has a son, Jason, whom her husband, Allan Cotes, helps raise. Josie Lopez, Dana Guest, and Robin Jackson are more old girlfriends.

Dr. Strauss is one of the nine leaders of the returning community; they make the policies and the twelve counselors pass it along. Mrs. Crew is “the angel of death”, Mr. Robert, Mr. Douglas, and Ms Cynthia are some of the counselors from the time before. In truth they’re more jailers than anything else. Sylvia Teller is a friend of her father’s who now lives in Dobbs Ferry. Traveler One is a myth, supposedly the one who came first, but really a metaphor for legitimacy.

Aaron Green is one of those who didn’t make it. Other kids who go to school in Rockland County include Katherine Wand, Prenna’s best friend; Jeffrey Boland; Juliet Kerr; and, Dexter Harvey. The kids at the after party include Cora Carter, Morgan Lowry, Avery Stone, and Adrian Pond.

The Cover and Title

I love the cover! It so perfectly captures the essence of the story with its cheerful quilt background a metaphor for how fabulous Prenna finds the past. And how she blends into it, becoming invisible to those around her.

The title is where Prenna is, in The Here and Now, a place where it’s safe.

five-stars

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