* * * 1/2
It’s 1996, and Josh and Emma have been neighbors their whole lives. They’ve been best friends almost as long – up until last November, when everything changed. Things have been awkward ever since, but when Josh’s family gets an America Online CD-ROM in the mail, his mom makes him bring it over so Emma can install it on her new computer. When they sign on, they’re automatically logged onto Facebook… but Facebook hasn’t been invented yet. Josh and Emma are looking at their profiles fifteen years in the future. Their spouses, homes, and status updates – it’s all there. But it’s not what they expected. And every time they refresh their pages, their futures change. As they grapple with the ups and downs of what their lives hold, they’re forced to confront what they’re doing right – and wrong – in the present.
What a clever idea for a book! I’m sure if ever our futures were available for preview we’d take it or at least consider it out of curiosity. But when you’re given that glimpse into a future that’s 15 years away without any reference or milestones leading to that point, how would you interpret it?
That’s what Emma and Josh face. Already dealing with a strained friendship, they suddenly have a door to their adult lives when they stumble upon Facebook, giving them an opportunity to interpret their lives through status updates. Obviously, they’re dumbfounded by this and have no clue as to what it all means. The books gets interesting as they both try to decipher their updates and react to what they read. What is also interesting is how those updates affect them in the present. For Emma, it gives her the motivation to do something about her current relationship with her boyfriend. For quiet, laid-back Josh, it gives him some peace of mind that he’s headed in a positive direction even if he doesn’t appear to have any direction at the moment.
Let’s start with what I liked. I enjoyed the many references to technology as it was back then. Nowadays where even a 6 year-old has a cell phone (for lord knows what), it was fun to be reminded that cell phones back then were not cheap and not so common and pagers were all the rage. Then there’s one scene where Emma goes to the library to find a California phone book to track someone down. Life pre-Google sucked! And the references to music and cassette tapes had me giggling.
What held me back from truly loving this book was Emma. I just didn’t take to her. She’s self-centered and oblivious to how her actions affect Josh. All she cares about is making sure her status updates mention how happy she is with whatever guy she is with at that future time, manipulating events before they happen. It’s rather obnoxious. But I suppose my own perspectives and hindsight color my opinion about her. Josh on the other hand, I found more interesting. He’s trying to understand how his future comes to be. While it gives him a certain boost to his confidence, he’s still uneasy with knowing too much and intentionally affecting things. His character provides a counter-balance to Emma’s haphazard regard for their futures.
The Future Of Us is a sweet story and in the end, despite my dislike of Emma, she did win me over somewhat with a small act of kindness when she shoved aside her own needs to provide some comfort to a family member. In the brief few days they had access to Facebook, both Emma and Josh mature considerably and finally come to focus on what’s more important – their friendship in the present.