Everyone hates considering the fact that they might end up miserable and lonely in their future. But the real question is: if you knew exactly what your future held, what would you do about it?
The Future of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler details a week in the lives of two high school students, Emma and Josh, after their discovery of the Internet in 1996. When Emma downloads her copy of AOL and logs on, she finds an odd site called “Facebook” that shows photos and updates from a woman who looks strangely like her. Somehow, she’s stumbled upon her life on the Internet fifteen years into the future—and it ain’t exactly pretty. She’s in a broken marriage to a man who spends all her money, she suffers from depression, and, worst of all, some unknown, horrible thing has happened to the planet Pluto.
Thinking the website is an elaborate hoax, Emma shows Facebook to her estranged best friend, Josh. Josh and Emma’s friendship fell to pieces months earlier when Josh admitted to having a crush on Emma. She didn’t return his feelings, and since then, their relationship hasn’t been the same. When Josh looks at his future self’s Facebook profile, he finds that his fate is much brighter–he’s married to the most popular, beautiful girl in school, Sydney Mills, and they have three children and a fancy mansion on the lake. Teenaged Emma decides to take matters into her own hands and change her future for the better, and Josh, who thinks even the slightest ripple will ruin his future with Sydney, tries to stop her.
Honestly, this is probably the most realistic horror story I’ve ever read. I think about my future a lot, but it’s not exactly something I enjoy doing. The last thing I need to know is that in fifteen years I’ll be bored to death at an unfulfilling desk job, or that I’ll be living happily as an author, but doing so in the cramped backseat of my car. Despite my initial misgivings, however, the concept of The Future of Us is a really interesting one.
Still, it doesn’t translate well to the page. A book like this should be full of character development, but it’s just not there. In fact, Emma’s journey toward maturity and a stable sense of self seems inconsistent at best and flimsy at worst. During the rising action of the novel, Emma reaches the conclusion that the reason she’s unhappy both in the present and the future is because she doesn’t allow people (namely, romantic interests) to get close to her, and, if she would, those people would make her happy. But I never picked up on this while reading. In fact, Emma’s romantic misery seems to be because her choice in boys is horrid, not because those boys have all the potential in the world and she just doesn’t let them get close enough to see it. Maybe the authors picked that explanation out of the air because they needed a new plot point, or maybe this idea was more prevalent in previous drafts but somehow got thrown out in the editing process. Either way, Emma’s revelation loses impact when not backed up by convincing relationships.
The Future of Us teaches the important, if predictable, lesson that we should live in the moment instead of stressing too much about the future, but it’s a lesson without much of a secondary impression. The novel is a neat remix on an old theme, but the scenes and characters appear disconnected from each other without any meaningful interaction, and the book as a whole suffers for it. If the novel used some of Carolyn Mackler’s amazing humor I’d have a much higher opinion, but her signature wit is sadly nonexistent here. The romantic tension and interesting premise in The Future of Us kept me reading, but I felt indifferent to the fates of the characters.
Sydnee is a freshman at Wayne State University pursuing a degree in Journalism. She is obsessed with hunky heroes, explosions, melodrama, and magic—all things that make a frequent appearance in her stories. Her blog is http://syd-dreams.blogspot.com. Find her on Figment at http://figment.com/users/62-Sydnee-Thompson.