Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Future of Us

I wonder if, for many teens reading The Future of Us, this YA novel will be considered "historical fiction."(See a review linked to the title). Considering the advances in technology, a book set in 1996 seems to be just that, a time when cell phones were not ubiquitous and there was no texting or Facebook. There was more face to face negotiation perhaps?

I can usually find something, usually a theme, in most kids books, that relates to kids emotional and physical health. This novel, written by two popular YA novelists, Carolyn Mackler and Jay Asher, is no exception. I'll get to it eventually.

The Future of Us is a high concept novel, as opposed to a more character driven novel. The concept is this: Two teens, Emma and Josh, in 1996, in the time before the invention of Facebook, accidentally discover their Facebook pages and learn what their lives are like in fifteen years.

The question becomes this: if Emma doesn't like her future, if she finds she's made a bad choice for a husband, can she preempt it? And if she takes action to manipulate her future, like nix a potential husband, what happens to the futures of others, like her teen-friend Josh? Lives are inter-related in mysterious ways. He loves his future, but might Emma muck it up?

It's all amusing to think about.

The bottom line is that every human act sends ripples towards the future. We can act, but we have no way of knowing how it will affect our loved ones or the universe.

Lines of poetry in a novel can help elucidate theme through an image. It's a recognized reason to use verse in a novel. Carolyn Mackler has included two lines from a song that I assume she wrote for this novel:

And all the roads we have to walk are winding 
And all the lights that lead us there are blinding

In other words, it's impossible to see into the future. But, I wonder, as I am an optimist, maybe we can at least control the blinding light, make it less blinding, and maybe see a hint of a path into the future.

At the end of the novel Emma and Josh see a glimpse of the path, though can't see the future. What they discover in the end, at least it seems to me, is that maybe it's better to focus on the present, following the emotion (the light?) they feel in their relationship. Perhaps real friendship and feelings are the only guide we have into the future.

Maybe this is what parents want for their kids when they ask them to turn off the computer and go out and play. They want their children to make friends and through real relationships live in the present.

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