Book review: ‘The Here and Now’ by Ann Brashares

The Here and NowSeventeen-year-old Prenna James knows the rules. In exchange for her freedom, she and her fellow travelers must not let anyone know where — or, more specifically, when — they come from. That a group of “immigrants” has found a way to open a portal in time to journey back to an illness-free Earth is a wonder . . . one that cannot be discovered.

The air is clean. Mosquitoes are nothing more than a nuisance. Prenna doesn’t take any of her freedoms from Earth’s ravages for granted — not after barely surviving a plague that claimed countless lives almost a century in the future. Though her arrival isn’t without suspicion, she manages to dodge the questions of other teens . . . and even those of Ethan Jarves, a handsome classmate linked to Prenna from the beginning.

When a chain of events cause Prenna to question everything she’s been told about how and why the travelers are there, she must decide for herself how to move forward. And is love, regardless of the cost, really worth it?

Ann Brashares’ The Here and Now the latest in a batch of young adult fiction with a dystopian angle . . . and, you know, it was pretty interesting. It’s no Life As We Knew It, but it’s certainly not terrible. Something about the story has me leaning toward ambivalence, though; I can’t pinpoint anything wrong with it, but it didn’t hold my attention the way I would have liked.

Prenna’s wit, intelligence and cunning carried the story for me, though. As it becomes apparent the elders aren’t exactly disclosing the truth to their “family” of sorts, I wanted Prenna to break away and do something bold — especially when we discovered something could be done. The suspense of finding out the significance of a date and the true identity of a friend kept the pace moving forward, and the story’s pivotal scenes were pretty compelling.

The Here and Now takes place in modern-day America — more than half a century before a mosquito-born illness wipes out huge swaths of the population. On the whole, the world-building was . . . sufficient? Okay? I would have loved more details about future America, actually, but I suppose that wasn’t the real point. The plan was to prevent the awful future, even if that wasn’t initially the goal. So to hear tons about a ravaged world would probably have been pointless.

Still.

Billed partially as a romance, the evolution of Ethan and Prenna’s relationship felt pretty realistic. I saw Prenna as the cute kick-butt type — and Ethan, for all his quirkiness, definitely had the hunk factor going on. I loved that he was sharp and clever and always willing to help, and learning his fate really added to his impact for me. Their first-love fumblings felt true-to-life and sweet, and I loved how supportive they were of one another without falling into unabashed “But I can’t live without you!” cheesiness. I don’t do cornball. (Well, most of the time.)

Fans of young adult fiction with a healthy dash of dystopian disaster will find an interesting — if not entirely unique — tale in The Here and Now, which was a quick and easy read. Brashares has earned her spot with YA fans through the beloved Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series, and her latest is worth a read. It didn’t rock my world . . . but was certainly an entertaining escape.


3.5 out of 5!

Pub: April 8, 2014 • GoodreadsLibraryThingAmazonAuthor on Facebook
Audio copy borrowed from my local library


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13 thoughts on “Book review: ‘The Here and Now’ by Ann Brashares

    • Blech, no comparison to The Hunger Games series (which I also loved, though found Mockingjay to be a bit of a letdown). This one lacked any of the world-building, dynamic characters and urgency that made Collins’ books so great. When you put this side-by-side with those, it looks pretty wimpy.

      I haven’t read the Divergent books yet, but I’m guessing it won’t be as heart-stopping, either!

    • I think I’m going to take a dystopian break for a while, Kathy — it can be too taxing trying to reconcile a planet that “isn’t” my own, if that makes sense? Too much to consider. It can be easy for me to get bogged down in logistics — “But how did that happen? How did they get there?” — when I really just want to lose myself in a good story.

    • Agree, Sheila — worth a read if it’s hanging around, but not one I’d eagerly push into others’ hands. (All these years later, Susan Beth Pfeffer’s novels are still my go-to choices for that.)

  1. Good to see another perspective on this tale! I was just talking to another reviewer earlier this week about this particular book, and we pretty much came to the same conclusion as you did. There were certain aspects of the story that seemed so well done (I, in particular, loved the dystopian side of the story and how Prenna’s world was frighteningly similar to where our own is headed). I think for me, the part that knocked the rating down (I scored it 3, the other reviewer scored it a 2) was the almost editorial way the narrative was written. For me, it didn’t feel like the text itself held any warmth or personality, so I didn’t feel very connected to the characters in the end – even though it was well-written in other aspects. It was like holding the story at arms length. It was a good story… but I didn’t feel immersed in the struggles of the characters. Anyways, great review 🙂

    • Completely agree: there was a disconnect between the reader and Prenna, who was an interesting but decidedly cold character. The text not having “any warmth or personality” is a spot-on description! And yes, it felt like we were being held at arm’s length throughout. I was never as immersed in the saga as I wish I could have been. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts!

  2. This sounds interesting, but I am always a bit hesitant in front of a “sufficient” world-building. With so many futuristic/dystopian novels around these days, I feel like I want a little more. Still, I’ll probably want to check this one out. Great review!

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