Publication Date: April 8, 2014
Publisher: Delacorte Press
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.
Since the completion of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series, Ann Brashares has tried her hand at different things, including adult titles, with varying degrees of success. With its time travel element, Brashares’ latest effort, The Here and Now, is a stylistic departure, albeit the sci-fi aspect is not as dominant a player as the central love story. For what it’s worth, there are probably some holes in the science, but that’s a minor gripe as the story is centered largely around character, while the time travel device allows the events to take place, supplying suspense and mystery.
There is a dystopian feel to Prenna’s society and its rules. She comes from a failed future where her people were decimated by a blood plague. Since there was no time to escape to the moon or elsewhere, they decided to take refuge in the past. But Prenna learns something that sets a mysterious quest of sorts into motion.
The writing is personal, allowing the reader to effectively connect with Prenna. Some passages are memorable, even touching. When Prenna reflects, “I wish I had some happiness I could keep,” while suspecting that a satisfying conclusion is out of reach for her, you’ll really root for her wish to come true.
The prologue is a highlight. The scene documenting Prenna’s arrival to Ethan’s present is magical and riveting. This drew me immediately into the tale. As I learned more about Prenna, I grew to like her and found that she had sufficient emotional depth to make me care about her. She’s smart, she’s got a rebellious streak, and she is genuine. I wish, however, that Brashares had developed Ethan’s character a little more. Beyond being a genius hacker boy who is smitten with and devoted to Prenna, I don’t feel like we really get a chance to find out what makes Ethan tick. As a result, the love story didn’t fully take hold for me. Instead, it was the narrative tension that kept me turning the pages.
Alongside the love story, the focus is similar to many dystopian books. Freedom, honesty, trust, and hope are all explored, as well as fate versus determinism.
I’m not quite sure what to make of the ending: Is the book a stand alone or designed to be the first in a new series? To a large degree, the novel feels unresolved at the end, so I suspect it may be a series, though perhaps that has yet to be determined. I cannot verify anything one way or the other; however, should she want to continue the story, Brashares has left the door wide open.
4 of 5 hearts. Recommended. With some dystopia, sci-fi, mystery, suspense, and romance, there is a little bit here for everyone. And though The Here and Now didn’t quite rekindle the spark of Brashares’ Pants series, it had sufficient strength and interest to gain and sustain my attention from beginning to end.