Title: The Here and Now
Author: Ann Brashares
No. of Pages: 256
Genre: Science Fiction; Young Adult; Romance
Origins: Random House Children’s Publishing
Release Date: 8 April 2014
Bottom Line: Predictable and clichéd but with a very interesting hypothesis
“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.”
Thoughts: Any time travel story involves the caveat that no one must change anything in the past for fear of changing the future. The same holds true for Prenna’s band of “immigrants” as they must adhere to rules that keep them isolated from the regular present-day inhabitants. However, while this premise is typically sound, The Here and Now falls apart specifically because of this premise.
The entire story revolves around Prenna’s struggle to remain a model immigrant. She wants to question the strict rules established by the leaders of her group but fears the consequences based on rumors of what happened to other rebellious immigrants. However, while one can understand why the leaders created the rules, one cannot understand why no one bothers to question these rules before Prenna. The whole reason for the trip into the past is to do something to prevent the plague that threatens humankind, so it makes no sense that the entire group does not rise up and ask some tough questions of their leaders. However, if that had happened, then there would be no story, and Prenna would not be the heroine she becomes. So goes the manipulative story line. It may not be logical, but it makes for a decent story.
Readers may consider Ethan’s involvement in Prenna’s ultimate success to also be troubling. Everything is just so sudden. Ethan knows about the time travelers. His love for Prenna requires his participation in the action. He has all of the answers Prenna wants. As with Prenna’s rapid transformation from good girl to full-out rebel, Ethan’s presence is a bit too convenient and clichéd to sit comfortably with readers.
While the characters’ own story arc may be problematic and archetypal, the plague that threatens mankind in Prenna’s world is quite fascinating. Its origins, how it evolves over time to become the pandemic into which it morphs, and the human reaction to it are very interesting and posit some tough questions about today’s society. It also is a very unique approach to the dangers of global warming, one that provides a bright spot in this rather formulaic story.
At the end of the day, The Here and Now is entertaining. There are some aspects about the characters and the plot that readers may find annoying, but that only slightly diminishes one’s enjoyment of the story. The fresh perspective on the damage today’s global warming will cause in the future does much to reduce any damage caused by the clichés or the story’s predictability. Prenna is not the strongest female heroine in Young Adult fiction, but she at least questions authority and fights for her beliefs. It may not be perfect, or anywhere close to it, but by setting aside one’s annoyance or some significant issues with plot contrivance, one can still squeeze in a few good hours of solid entertainment out of it. Sometimes, that’s all anyone needs out of a story.