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.
From Ann Brashares, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series, The Here and Now is thrilling, exhilarating, haunting, and heartbreaking—and a must-read novel of the year.
The Here and Now by Ann Brashares is very strange. People from a disease-ridden, ravaged future have traveled to the past to try to survive. But in the quiet chaos of secret-keeping, sneaking around, and constant surveillance, Prenna, the protagonist, starts to uncover the source of her future’s undoing, and begins to open up to an unusual time native named Ethan, who sees and understands things that others cannot.
What I really like about this book is the premise. A lot of time travel books are not meant to reflect reality; they are purely science fiction and lack real world roots (with some obvious exceptions: Back to the Future, come on). But The Here and Now brings what other time travel books leave behind: a story that takes place in the real world. There’s no alternate universe or planet or whatever. The trouble with Prenna’s future — and the reason she and her fellow pilgrims leave it behind — is a plague and disastrous climate change caused by the actions of the present global population. It’s the stuff we’re doing right now that causes a cataclysmic future. I like that Brashares found a way to balance science fiction/time travel with real life issues that we face today. It adds a tenor of honesty and warning to the novel and really sets it apart.
I wasn’t as crazy about the love story. Sure, Prenna and Ethan have this bond. He found her on her first day in the past and has been concerned with her, or in love with her ever since. But I guess I just didn’t see that enough. Their conversations significantly focus on saving the future, which makes sense because that is the whole conflict of the book, but I feel like if you’re going to classify the book as an “epic romantic thriller,” you should probably give the romance a bit more substance. The scenes they do have together are great, very intuitive and interesting, but I just didn’t see enough development in their relationship. They go from zero to IN LOVE in a very short amount of time and I’m just not that convinced. I suppose that’s the point. They have been forbidden to each other and when they finally decide to go against that, it’s all or nothing. It makes sense when I write it down, but when I was reading it, I was kind of meh, not feeling it.
Other than that, I thought The Here and Now was a thoughtful observation of humanity, family and consequences. As much as the book is a “romantic thriller,” I think it’s also a plea, a call to action. It feels like Brashares is trying to tell us that we have the power to enact social and environmental change. The only way to prolong a happy human experience is to adapt to the changing planet and society and to fix what we can. I think this is a great example of the potential depth of the young adult genre. A lot of YA books are admittedly frivolous and sort of “what you see is what you get.” But then there are those novels that are true studies. Of human nature, love, family, whatever. Ann Brashares’ The Here and Now is definitely one of the latter.
In stores April 8!
8 out of 10!