Thursday, April 3, 2014

Review: The Here and Now by Ann Brashares

An unforgettable epic romantic thriller about a girl from the future who might be able to save the world . . . if she lets go of the one thing she’s found to hold on to.

Follow the rules. Remember what happened. Never fall in love.

This is the story of seventeen-year-old Prenna James, who immigrated to New York when she was twelve. Except Prenna didn’t come from a different country. She came from a different time—a future where a mosquito-borne illness has mutated into a pandemic, killing millions and leaving the world in ruins.

Prenna and the others who escaped to the present day must follow a strict set of rules: never reveal where they’re from, never interfere with history, and never, ever be intimate with anyone outside their community. Prenna does as she’s told, believing she can help prevent the plague that will one day ravage the earth.

But everything changes when Prenna falls for Ethan Jarves.

From Ann Brashares, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series, The Here and Now is thrilling, exhilarating, haunting, and heartbreaking—and a must-read novel of the year.

Hardcover, 288 pages
Expected publication: April 8th 2014 by Delacorte Press 
(info grabbed from GoodReads)

This book was written with only half baked ideas that needed to go back in the oven BECAUSE THEY WERE NOT DONE COOKING.  The science is deplorable, Prenna is an idiot, and no other character is even defined other than an outline of what could perhaps be a person.  THE HERE AND NOW is the story of Prenna, a time traveling girl from a future where most of the population has been wiped out by a plague.  The book then tries to be a dystopian, mystery, and love story all at once, but is fails at all three.  The story just skims the surface of a story; it's like reading an outline based on good ideas, but not a full, finished novel.

This is the worst thought out dystopian society I’ve ever read.  They are controlling, but they let people live their lives with little restrictions.  There are vague rules, but they give people freedom to break those rules and then follow through with inconsistent punishments.  It’s not the imposing society of a dystopian that we’re used to.  For example: Prenna’s friend is found to have been speaking with Prenna about things they shouldn’t be.  Her punishment is being sent away to boarding school.  Whatever.  However, another of the children of the time traveling society raises the suspicion of one of his teachers at school.  The teacher asks questions.  So what does the society do?  They kill the child and his family.


I actually had to read that section in the book a couple times to wrap my head around it.  First of all, if you’re trying to be all secretive, why was the kid in regular schooling?  And furthermore, after the issue happened, I would think that every other child a part of this society would be a prime candidate for home schooling.

But there’s more!  Prenna herself isn’t safe from the wrath of her society.  For catching pneumonia, they would let her die rather than let her get medical help.  After all the trouble of traveling through time, they are very willing to just let people die.  It makes no sense; travel all this way to escape a plague and then let your youngest citizens die of something there’s treatment for?

But Prenna’s pneumonia episode brings up other issues in the book: it’s complete lack of research.  If you’re going to have anything medical, one could at least check out webMD to see if something is plausible.  In the book, Prenna has asthma and gets pneumonia, but her mother is a doctor and insists all she would need is a ventilator. 

First of all, you don’t get pneumonia from asthma.  Asthma is chronic illness that is characterized by episodes of spasming of the bronchioles.  People are on lifelong medication oftentimes for this illness.  Pneumonia is an infection.  Asthma does not cause infections.  Bacteria (and viruses) cause infections.  Also, it’s never mentioned again if Prenna has an asthmatic issue, but she does have moments of being in and damp potentially moldy places and also moments of running.  No mention of so much as a wheeze.  Next, Prenna did not need a ventilator, she needed a nebulizer.  A ventilator is a device that breathes for you and puts you at higher risk for pneumonia.  A nebulizer delivers medication to expand your lungs.  But really, she needed to be hospitalized with an “as needed” order for suctioning, if you asked me.

But what’s really irritating is that this whole episode of Prenna’s illness is simply a plot device to show the society as being controlling and cold.  It could have been interesting to have a character with asthma or to see how the society adapted to unexpected situations the children cause, but it’s not explored.  These ideas are only half good, and it’s the other half of the idea that makes the story bad.

I can’t really complain about the time travel science too much because it was never addressed.  Physics are not mentioned, the potential of a paradox is skimmed over; just poof, naked and wet Prenna in a pond.  That’s how they arrive.  Why is she naked?  Never mentioned.  Other than that she had to be naked so Ethan can give her his hoodie.  Or whatever he gave her, it was kind of a big deal in comparison to everything else.

I could rant about the science for days, but it’s not that large a part of the book (which is funny since its science fiction).  So how was our main character, Prenna?  DUMB.  She makes one bad decision after another, but somehow everything works out.  She doesn’t figure a single thing out for herself and only has a brain when it’s convenient to the story.  There is one thing (that is a bit of a spoiler) that any person with half a brain would figure out or notice that Prenna doesn’t get until the last second.  It was just handled badly; the characters are being cryptic at time where it doesn’t make any sense to be cryptic.  Seriously, the fate of the world is at stake and the moment to change it is in less than 24 hours, and our protagonist is at the beach with her new beau. … WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH THIS.  How could you relax enough to laugh?  …But on the bright side, she is the most fleshed out character in the book.

Oh, Katherine.  She is the only character other than Prenna and Ethan that has a significant role in the story and I cannot for the life of me think of a personality trait that describes her.  She is the Best Friend.  She is concerned for Prenna.  She wears glasses and is from a society from the future where everyone wears glasses.  Real exciting character building there.  When she is taken away, I should care, but there is no character to care about.  The only reason to care is because it’s causing problems for Prenna. 

What’s sad is that I barely touched half of the notes I wrote while reading this.  There is so much wrong with this book.  It’s a huge pet peeve of mine when an author didn’t do their research or didn’t think an idea out, and this book is guilty of that.  Super guilty.  There is nothing I thought redeeming in the story.  The ending is the best part of the book, but it’s not anywhere close to saving it.  I recommend THE HERE AND NOW to no one.


This review is also posted on GoodReads