It’s the spring of 1996 and Emma and Josh are in an awkward stage in their relationship. In November, Josh tried to kiss Emma. Because they have been friends and neighbors their whole lives, Emma instinctively pushed him away, saying, “No…you’re Josh.” Now they don’t know how to act around each other, which makes maintaining their friendship a bit of a challenge.
Adding to the challenge is a portal to the future that Emma has discovered through her new AOL.com account. Somehow, Emma is able to glimpse her future Facebook page and she doesn’t like what she sees. Her future self is trapped in a loveless marriage with a cheating husband. Josh, on the other hand, is happily married to Sydney Mills, the most popular girl at their school. This obviously makes Emma distraught and Josh quite happy.
When they learn that their Facebook statuses change with choices they make in the present, Emma is delighted. By simply deciding not to apply to a certain college, she can make sure she never meets her philandering husband (this, however, doesn’t keep her from meeting other jerks). Josh, on the other hand, doesn’t want to do anything that might jeopardize his happy future with Sydney. But Emma’s choices in the present have an impact on Josh’s future life and their future relationship.
I picked up The Future of Us because its two authors, Jay Asher (13 Reasons Why) and Carolyn Mackler (The Earth, My Butt and Other Big Round Things) are very popular among teen readers. This is an entertaining story with an inventive take on the idea that even the smallest choices we make now can have big consequences for us in the future.
The story is told in alternating points of view of Josh and Emma (maybe the authors took responsibility for each character?) and the teen voices sound real and authentic. While most young readers won’t catch the cultural references to 1996, I found it entertaining to go back in time when few teenagers were online or had cellphones and Facebook hadn’t been invented. This probably sounds like the stone age to most young readers, but they will see that life was actually quite pleasant and teenagers weren’t that different than they are today.
One of the things I appreciated most about the book is how it shows Emma and Josh gradually becoming more and more obsessed with logging online and checking their status updates. In Emma and Josh’s case, however, the obsession is understandable as they are glimpsing their future lives. With every small decision they make now, their futures are altered in dramatic ways. Emma chooses to take an advanced science class and suddenly her Facebook profile says she is a marine biologist. Josh has three kids, then one, then two, depending on his daily interactions with Sydney and Emma.
Part of the fun of reading the book is seeing how with every attempt Emma makes to change her future for the better, she adds new complications to her life, including her relationship with Josh. When she loses him as a friend in both the present and future, she realizes how important he is to her and why her relationships with men always end up being the same.
Information about the authors
From the Jay Asher’s page on Amazon, we learn that “Jay Asher has worked at an independent bookstore, an outlet bookstore, a chain bookstore, and two public libraries. He hopes, someday, to work for a used bookstore. When he is not writing, Jay plays guitar and goes camping. Thirteen Reasons Why is his first published novel.” From Carolyn Mackler’s page on Amazon, we learn that “Carolyn Mackler began telling stories when she was four, by speaking into a tape recorder or having her mom write the words while she drew the pictures. Now she uses a computer, and she doesn’t attempt to illustrate anything. She’s written six novels for teenagers. Her most recent novel, The Future of Us, was co-authored with Jay Asher. It has just been optioned by Warner Brothers for a major motion picture.
Here’s a link to a video of the authors speaking about their collaboration and book
Young Adult Fiction and Non-Fiction
Reading Level / Interest Age
Grade 9 and up