The hook to Jay Asher and Carolyn Macker’s book – The Future of Us – is intriguing. Two teenagers log into AOL in the mid-1990s, only to discover something called Facebook bookmarked on their computer, which allows them to view their futures through Facebook status reports and friend networks. They are lurkers in their own futures.
Built on the science fictional concept that what we do today changes our futures tomorrow (so be careful what you say and which friendships you make and break), the novel balances the angst of the high school years with worries about the futures ahead of us. As Emma and Josh, two best friends from childhood now having a strained relationship as teenagers, view the future through the lens of Facebook, they scrutinize every move, every word, every relationship, in hopes that they will be happy someday. (They also make snarky observations about the future where everyone shares every little thing to the whole world.)
We never do learn why the AOL CD-ROM they use provides them a glimpse into Facebook (nor do they ever really use AOL for anything other than looking at Facebook), but the cultural and pop references (the emergence of Dave Matthews, for example) in the lives of Josh and Emma brought me right back to those mid-1990s, and I remember distinctly the first time I sat down at my friend’s computer and logged into AOL, and began an online conversation with a stranger around William Gibson’s novels about the future. It was eye-opening that a computer would connect me to a community.
The plot of The Future of Us moves along at a nice clip, alternating between the first person narratives of Josh and Emma. It’s nice that they come to understand one of those universal truths of life that Saul Bellow once used for his own famous novel: Seize the Day. Live in the day, not in the future or past.
Peace (in the here and now),