Author: Ann Brashares (Twitter)
Publish Date: April 8, 2014
Genre: YA, Sci-Fi, Thriller
Follow the rules. Remember what happened. Never fall in love. This is the story of seventeen-year-old Prenna James, who immigrated to New York when she was twelve. Except Prenna didn’t come from a different country. She came from a different time—a future where a mosquito-borne illness has mutated into a pandemic, killing millions and leaving the world in ruins.Prenna and the others who escaped to the present day must follow a strict set of rules: never reveal where they’re from, never interfere with history, and never, ever be intimate with anyone outside their community. Prenna does as she’s told, believing she can help prevent the plague that will one day ravage the earth. But everything changes when Prenna falls for Ethan Jarves.
There is something innately alluring about a tale of love in a time of supreme desperation. It's the type of story that offers readers a glimpse at forbidden romance, drama, sacrifice, pain, loss and love conquering all. So, without a doubt, if you add a science fiction element to the story, I'm most definitely completely captivated by this story. Ann Brashares is well known for her story, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, and I remember the feelings and emotions I felt while reading that book well. She has this innate ability to make readers feel for and connect with her characters, so giving us a world outside our own seemed to be just the icing on the cake for me.
The Here and Now features the same fluid and easy writing style that Ms. Brashares is known for. Rather than offer us flowery prose with no meat behind it, we have a story that's cleverly written, honest, descriptive and beautifully insightful. More than once, a singular line would stand on in mind has truly deep and thoughtful - something that heightened the story and the overarching theme of love and survival in a broken society. These hidden passages added a layer of depth to the story that might have otherwise been lacking, and I most definitely appreciated the honest, powerful prose within the pages.
I must admit, however, that I struggled a bit with Prenna's character. From the start, we meet a girl who has a rebellions streak a mile wide. Her actions land her in imprisonment very quickly, which we can't help but find unsurprising. Yet, in another streak of fairly unsurprising events, Prenna is back out and attempting to change their broken world. I'll admit that I couldn't help but feel that that character arc was a little superfluous, if only because it was so fleeting, and we found ourselves pretty much back where we began with Prenna and Ethan anyway. Ethan, too, was a bit of a difficult one for me. Though I felt like we had a strong overview of his circumstances, we never really quite got to know him, and that frustrated me. I knew I was supposed to be completely invested in Prenna and Ethan's plight, but I felt more interested in the general setup of the world instead.
The setup of The Here and Now was solid, and I'll admit that I was extremely surprised that Ms. Brashares created such a complex world when all I'd ever seen from her before was a feel-good contemporary story. However, we're given two very distinct worlds - a broken present society and a disease-ravaged future society - both of which seem cold and bleak. The time travel element most certainly added a layer of drama to an otherwise fairly solid dystopian world, as well. However, I must say that I believe this fantastic setup and backdrop actually overshadowed our characters in the end. Instead of feeling that strong bond and connection with Prenna and Ethan, I felt as though they felt a bit flat, so we were left with an incredible world with characters we wanted more from. In fact, I think that, perhaps, there was so very much going on throughout the story that that's actually where we lost a bit of the depth.
In the end, I had mixed feelings about The Here and Now, though I think it was a solid story in general. I simply wanted a little more depth and a little less of the extras. I give it a very strong 3.5 out of 5, and I recommend it to fans of YA fiction, especially those who enjoy dystopian stories with a science-fiction twist.
I received this book free of charge from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This, in no way, affected my opinion or review of this book.