The Here and Now by Ann Brashares
Release date: April 8, 2014
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.
I received a digital copy of this book from Netgalley. I do not receive any compensation for my reviews.
Let me start with a disclaimer. I went into this book with zero expectations because I’ve never read The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, though I think I watched part of the movie once. Basically, I knew nothing of the author’s writing style.
The Here and Now follows Prenna, who is a time traveler from the future. She, her mother, and hundreds of others from her time, returned to 2010 to undo history, and stop the world from destroying itself. Or so they’re told. Their “community” follows a list of rules. Basically, don’t tell anyone where you’re from, don’t fall in love or be intimate with any time “natives,” and obey your community leaders at all costs. As the story unfolds, we learn that the leaders are bad, and only made up the rules to protect themselves, and they have zero intention of saving the world, just living in the past so they don’t have to die of a plague in the future. Prenna’s father doesn’t come with them when they travel, though he does show up later, as a homeless man, 24 years older than when she left him. The story twists and weaves its way into a huge mess, which leaves Prenna, her love interest Ethan, and the fate of the world in danger. It’s up to Prenna and Ethan to stop a murder to change the course of time, or the world will continue on the same path, and the plague will take over.
The Here and Now left me waiting…and wanting. I’m assuming this is going to be a series as there was a lot of loose ends left at the end of the book. I’m not a huge fan of first person present tense writing. It grates of my nerves as so little of it is written well. When I first started the book, I got the feeling that The Here and Now would be no different. There’s a lot of passive phrasing, which is so EASILY corrected, I’m not sure why no one has taken the time to do it. Perhaps before the final releases, it’ll be taken care of.
Let’s begin with Prenna. At the start, she comes off as a shy girl, bound by the constraints of her “people” and “community.” However, it doesn’t take long for her to become brave, demanding, and basically oblivious to the consequences of her actions. I liked her character to a point, but I got the impression that she had a one track mind and that the repercussions didn’t matter.
Next, we have Ethan, who is the real gem of this book. He’s nerdy, he’s smart, he’s patient, he’s brave. He seems to do things for the right reasons and be conscious that there are more important things than just himself and the girl he cares about.
The story itself is…okay. I followed along easily, the first person thing kind of fell away as I got more into it, but I’m still left scratching my head a little. Not to mention that the “big reveals” felt like small blips, because I had to wait about fifty pages after I figured it out for the character to finally get it. I don’t like knowing stuff before the character does, it steals all of their glory. The specific case of this is the homeless man being Prenna’s father. I don’t buy that she doesn’t recognize him right away. This is explained away because he’s “older” and came from a “hard place,” but I don’t buy it. I knew it was her father right away.
Also, why are there so many copies of the drawing Ethan made after Prenna came through by the river? He gave one to Prenna’s father…I think? And then one to Andrew Baltos? And there’s still one in his drawer at home. This wasn’t ever really followed up on. Now that her father and Baltos are dead…maybe it’s the time travel that confuses me. And how does Ethan know that he’s the “Moses” when he looked in Baltos’s wallet? I’m still confused. I guess it was probably Ethan’s ability to “sight” the travelers…but it’s never explained why he has this sight. Seems too convenient to the storyline and I hate “just because” answers.
What I really enjoyed about the story was the relationship development between Prenna and Ethan. It’s the only pacing in the story that worked for me. Up until they start talking about having sex. I might be alone in this, but I’m really over the “we can’t have sex because you’ll die” thing. I can’t count how many books I’ve read that have this theme. All of them young adult, and in all of them, it irritated me. It’s like the author can’t find a reason good enough for the teens to be abstinent, so they hitch it to the fate of the world…like sex is the only reason we exist. Like you can’t have a solid relationship without having sex. I. Don’t. Get. It. It blows sex way out of proportion. It makes it seem all powerful. But in our highly sexualized society, I suppose this is normal.
The other thing I enjoyed is all the references to paper. As an author myself, I’m hung up on paper as well. I think that digitizing everything is going to be the downfall of our society, because we’re relying on something we can’t physically hold in our hands. So I didn’t miss that reference.
Overall, I enjoyed the books, at some points, I found it highly engaging, but overall, it left me wanting and waiting for the other shoe to drop. Will I read a sequel? Maybe, just to get some more of Ethan.