52 in 52: The Here and Now, by Ann Brashares

[This review is based on an Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) digital edition published by the Delacourt Press imprint of Random House Children’s Books in 2014, and provided by NetGalley.]

Here’s the deal:
Ethan Jarves is out fishing when Prenna James seemingly materializes from nowhere, with a series of numbers written on her arm. What he hasn’t figured out yet is that Prenna is a time traveler; she comes from the 2080s, where blood plagues run rampant and kill scores of people. She and her community are traveling back to 2014 to figure out the root cause of the plagues and put a stop to them so the mass devastation will not happen. As Ethan and Prenna get to know each other — which the community leaders have expressly forbidden her to do — they begin to fall in love with each other, and then they discover that the number sequence she arrived with represents a date. Ethan and Prenna must work together to figure out how to prevent a future-altering event from occurring before it’s too late. Will they be able to change the future…and to stay together?

My thoughts:
The Here and Now, for me, was a very fast read — I read it cover to cover in a matter of hours. I can’t really say that I loved it, though, unfortunately. I had some trouble understanding the overall premise of the book (that members of the community were expected to assimilate into normal society, to school for example, but were forbidden to tell people anything about themselves or let anyone get to know them). How could you possibly pretend to be part of a society while being entirely walled off from other people, especially at school? The way to make friends is to get to know people, and to allow them to get to know you; if you can’t do that, why bother trying to make friends? Why wouldn’t the community just start a school of their own and keep themselves isolated like they seem to want to do?

This leads to another problem, about forbidding members to fall in love and/or be intimate with “time natives” (the people who are supposed to be living in a particular time period). If the community members were kept away from time natives and lived in their own little bubble — which, let’s face it, is what this community is actually trying to do; they’re hiding from the blood plagues, not actually trying to fix anything — no one would have an opportunity to fall in love with a native. If this were the case, Prenna and Ethan probably never would have had contact with each other after their first meeting and, therefore, would never have fallen in love. That being said, the plot plays out as it does and the two do in fact develop feelings for each other. They kiss several times and Ethan never experiences any plague symptoms that Prenna may or may not be carrying from the future; they’re not mingling their blood and condoms exist to prevent contact with other fluids, so why exactly can’t they be intimate with each other? This seems like a completely made-up rule on the part of the leaders to scare the community members into submission, and it unfortunately seems to be working with Prenna. She loves Ethan so much that she doesn’t want to put his life at risk by going to bed with him, even though he eventually figures everything out and still insists that he’d be okay with dying if he got to sleep with her (a line, by the way, that is in my opinion simultaneously sweet and creepy).

As for the main plot, surrounding the decoding of the numbers on Prenna’s arm and the events that lead up to and happen on that date, that was the most interesting part of the story! Prenna and Ethan encounter an old man who turns out to have a surprising connection to the future. The man sends them to a storage locker where they uncover a great deal of information about the future — for example, digitized memory banks called iMemory and issues of the New York Times dated 2021 — and set about changing the course of history. A dangerous encounter toward the end of the book brings a startling revelation about the First Traveler, and by extension some shocking news about the community. This was the most interesting part of the book! The community leaders require their members to wear glasses that are secretly used to record every word and movement of each member, and they must also take “vitamins” that are supposed to help build their immune systems in this new time period but actually build nothing but blindness in the members…which leads them to needing the glasses to improve their vision. And the vicious cycle of deceit continues! This, of course, speaks to the government controlling its people for better or worse, and each reader will do what they will with that aspect of the story.

So would I recommend this book?
I had issues, as I discussed above, with certain parts of The Here and Now. The biggest part of the plot, however, was fascinating! I hope you’ll give it a look on a free afternoon and let me know what you think in the comments!

Visit Ann Brashares’s website here.
Visit Ann Brashares’s blog here.
Like Ann Brashares on Facebook here.
Follow Ann Brashares on Twitter here.