I really enjoyed The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants books by Ann Brashares, so I was interested to see what she would do writing something a little bit different in her latest book, The Here and Now.
Brashares has previously dipped her toes in the science fiction world with the book My Name is Memory, but I haven’t yet read that, so this was my first experience with Brashares and science fiction. I don’t think the science fiction is the best, but Brashares still has the gift of character. She’s great at making you love and care what happens to her characters.
In The Here and Now, Prenna is from the future, a future where a mosquito-traveling disease is killing everyone. To try to save some of those that have proven to be immune to the disease, a community of them travels back in time, to our time, and they have a strict set of rules: never use medical facilities besides their own, avoid entering the historical record, and, most importantly, never develop physical or emotional relationships with anyone outside the community.
Since arriving in our time, Prenna has followed the rules, even when Ethan Jarves continues to flirt with her. But when Prenna is made aware of some odd things within her community, she starts questioning what she’s been told, she rebels against the leaders, and she starts to fall for some of Ethan’s charms.
The reason I say the science fiction isn’t the best is that it’s just used as a mechanism to have someone from the future live in a strict society and interact with someone from our time. There really isn’t much explanation of anything, like the disease that is killing everyone in the future. There is a lot of discussion about global warming and how we didn’t do anything about it and because of that they struggled in the future, but I’m not sure how this translated into a disease that sweeps the planet. I’m also not quite clear on how time travel was discovered and why they wanted to send a community of people to the past without having them help change the future. It didn’t much make sense.
But I did like Prenna. She’s nervous and scared, which translates into her being a bit moronic at times, but I bought into the idea because she never thought to question her surroundings. I also liked Ethan a lot. He’s charming, so we’re clearly supposed to like him, and it worked. So when the story turns into a bit of a thriller with Prenna and Ethan running from the community and trying to change the future, I was hooked.
I did like this book, but I’m not sold on Brashares being great at science fiction. She’s great at creating likeable characters, but she needs to stretch a bit more if she wants science fiction to be her new thing.