Jay Asher and Carolyn Macker’s “The Future of Us” left me with mixed sentiments as I finished it. On one hand, it has a quite a few cool ideas while taking place in the distant past. It’s 1996 and Emma receives an AOL CD-ROM to install on her computer and connect to the internet. But when Emma accesses it, she comes across a webpage called Facebook (yes, THAT Facebook), and realizes that she’s accessing her profile page in the future. And with being able to access her page, she can also access the page of her friend Josh, who also takes an interest in seeing what his future is like (albeit, he’s a bit more skeptical than Emma in the beginning).
It’s somewhat of a love story meets time-travel meets coming of age tale. I think the idea behind the story is great, and some of the things that the characters do are cool, just to see how their actions in the present affect aspects of their future, from whom they’re married to, to their subsequent interests, among other things. But I was surprisingly uninterested in this book for all the neat stuff and nostalgia it brought (I actually had Prodigy and Compuserve long before I used AOL to access the internet, but it was still pretty cool to see.) Why? Well, I didn’t really like the protagonists that much, and I felt a distance between them that kept me from fully being immersed in the story. Did I appreciate their plights? Sure, to an extent. Did I see why they did the things they did – including pursuing relationships that they thought they were meant to have? Yes. But I didn’t feel emotionally invested in what they were doing. Also, when the story reaches its conclusion and the two are no longer able to access Facebook as their relationships come to term – it ends abruptly. I was a little disappointed with the lack of expansion on that as well as the mechanics on how they were able to access their Facebook profiles from the future.
Also, I didn’t like Emma. I’m sorry – as a character, she just wasn’t well constructed. She was a bit on the whiny side and kept jumping in and out of her relationships carelessly. There wasn’t really much to her other than how she felt about the boys around her and I felt her character could’ve been fleshed out much more than she was. Even her family conflict seemed one-dimensional. It was difficult to align with her in terms of what she felt and the issues she faced. I actually liked Josh a little more, but there was still a degree of distance with his character that kept me from completely getting inside his head and engrossed with his respective role in the story. I did feel more for him than for Emma, if for the measure that I understood how he felt about Emma and his confusion about accessing the future and what it could lead to. He seemed more responsible about noting the repercussions of what tampering with the Facebook pages could lend. Emma, on the contrary, just jumped in with both feet without really questioning it (or really learning from it, to be frank). The secondary characters in the novel were okay, but I think like the main characters, it was hard to find investment with them because the connection with them felt so loose, and lack the degree of urgency and intimacy that I think could’ve made this a much stronger story.
I wouldn’t say that I disliked “The Future of Us” entirely, but it was underwhelming for what it could’ve offered, not only in the thematic that it chose to explore, but also in the development of its subsequent cast of characters.
Overal score: 2/5