I’ve liked every book I’ve read by the prolific Ann Brashares, who’s probably best known for her series The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. (I haven’t read every single book of hers, but I’ve read at least five or six). So, I jumped at the opportunity to read her latest YA dystopic novel, The Here and Now.
While The Here and Now begins with a short section told from the third-person point of view of a teenage boy, Ethan, most of the book is told in first-person present tense by a girl named Prenna. A quick side note: this POV certainly seems to be the trend for YA dystopian fiction. I end up focusing on POV whenever I read a book from this genre. How did it become so popular, and why? The good news is that The Here and Now is original and fascinating, and the POV—along with other dystopic conventions—works for it. The plot is fast-paced and engrossing, especially once Prenna takes over.
Prenna is a high schooler with typical problems and atypical secrets that are both fantastic and plausible: she’s a time traveler. She reveals these secrets to the reader and more slowly reveals them to Ethan, who (too conveniently at first, perhaps) happens to be her classmate. Their relationship is complex and interesting, not least because it’s founded in friendship and intellectual respect. They are the book’s most important, interesting characters, and the others – even Prenna’s complex mother – fade into the background against them. Ethan’s maybe a little too good to be true, since he’s not only full of wonderful qualities but happens to have a special understanding of time travel.
Speaking of time travel, it’s easy to get bogged down in thinking about practicalities with any fiction involving this topic, especially when considering how changes to the past can affect the future. It’s the butterfly effect: whenever a character changes the past, that change can then affect that character’s present–the future of that past. I’d wonder about these time-travel mechanics for any book that involved this plot device. And this butterfly-effect issue affects Prenna and Ethan, who have advance knowledge of a future they would like to avoid.
Without giving too much of the plot away, I think The Here and Now handles this well, showing that events don’t always turn out the way people expect (and I mean this for both the characters and readers), and that some things are unavoidable. Brashares’ story surprised me several times. In good fiction, even when you think you know what’s going to happen, you don’t know until you get there. That’s exciting for both The Here and Now’s main characters and even more so for the people reading about them.
Rachel, who has a Ph.D. in English, is a freelance writer/editor and a voracious reader. You can talk to her about books at http://twitter.com/writehandmann.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Delacorte Press. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.