The year is 1996 and Emma has received a new computer as a gift from her father. After installing the AOL CD given to her by her next door neighbor, Josh, she finds that she is able to access a website called “Facebook” which gives the two of them a glimpse at themselves fifteen years into the future. Unfortunately, one of them is not pleased with the future life she glimpses and sets out to make changes now that will ripple into changes down the road.
First of all, let me say that it was going to be pretty near impossible for me not to like this book. This is basically my teenage years summed up in about 356 pages, at least in terms of pop culture. There is TONS of mid-90s nostalgia here for those of us in our 30s. When Emma is listening to Dave Matthews band I was immediately taken back to time when, after one of his concerts, I completely wiped out and ate pavement in the parking lot in front of like a billion people. My at-the-time future husband was so mortified he told me to pretend like I was drunk. This is probably why we’re divorced now. There are just so many mentions of 90s staples in this book – at one point Emma is reading YM Magazine. Oh my! If only it had been Sassy. God, I miss Sassy. The good news is that while there is tons of nostalgia to be had, it’s not really gratuitous for the most part. It’s not just a bunch of references shoved in willy-nilly to make it obvious that the book is set in the mid-90s.
I liked the subtle (or not-so-subtle) jabs at Facebook also. Like when Emma says that it’s where people write about their lives, “like whether they found a parking spot or what they ate for breakfast.” Josh is pretty much like, “Uh, why?” Good question, Josh. Do we not all have at least one of these people on our friends list? The ones who think we need a minute-by-minute update of what they’re doing or thinking every minute of every day? Future Emma, sadly, seems to be one of them. She’s also the only type of FB friend worse than the minutiae-sharer…the awkward “everyone needs to know my very personal business” sharer. You know, the ones who post nasty stuff about their spouse or tell everyone about their feminine problems or their sex lives. Basically, things that nobody cares about or wants to know.
Emma shares it all, and it’s this mortifying broadcasting of personal shit that makes her want to change her future. At first, you really can’t blame her, but after a while I found myself not caring so much about what happens to Future Emma above and beyond how it relates to Future Josh. Because in screwing with her own future, she screwed with his as well (and the futures of pretty much everyone she knew, which is kind of a dick move since a lot of them were really happy fifteen years down the line). I was judging Emma’s behavior pretty hard, but it did make me wonder how I’d react in the same situation. Would I take what I saw and assume that it was for the best in the long run to let things play themselves out, or would I keep shaking the Magic 8 Ball and playing with everyone’s lives? Future Emma and I are pretty close to the same age. Not that I’m unhappy with my life or anything, but if I could have seen certain things before they happened would I have been tempted to change them? Would I feel that I wasn’t rich enough (which is to say, I’m not rich at all)? Would it bother me that I was going to end up divorced? Would I have the guts to make changes knowing that there was a strong possibility that I could make the situation much worse? Emma seemed crazy picky, though, and after a while it started to bug. There’s no such thing as a perfect life, though maybe some people don’t really understand and learn that until they’re older.
I’ve never read anything by Carolyn Mackler before but I was apparently one of the few people walking the Earth who didn’t really care for Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher. I won’t get into that for reasons that are personal, but suffice it to say that I liked The Future of Us significantly more. Recommended.