By Ann Brashares
Available now from Delacorte Press (Penguin Random House)
Ann Brashares returns to YA with a novel that blends time travel, romance, and social issues together. It's well timed - her Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants novels are still well known, but old enough that no one is likely disappointed by Brashares exploring a different genre. Her contemporary fans shouldn't worry though, because Brashares does very little with the time travel conceit.
Prenna and her mother live with a group of time travelers who all escaped a world devastated by a mosquito-borne plague. They live under strict rules to keep from being discovered or from changing the future. I never quite got why the community goes along with this. Who would suddenly jump to the conclusion that they're from the future? Why wouldn't they change the future? Surely anything is better than 90% or so of the human race dying. And, well, it's revealed in the first chapter or so that the community leaders killed a fourteen-year-old kid because he wasn't good enough at following the rules. Anyone who thinks killing a fourteen-year old whose only crime is being to talkative is the answer is not a leader that should be followed. Oddly, Prenna seems to be the only one who is really discontented. Her best friend kind of goes along with her, but has no personal motivation.
When Prenna starts to truly become friends with Ethan, who isn't a time traveler, she suddenly becomes a figure of suspicion. But Ethan helps Prenna dig deeper into her now, to ask questions about the rules she follows and what else she could do with her life. The first two-thirds of the book remind me more of GATED or other books about characters escaping cults than other time travel novels.
I enjoyed THE HERE AND NOW for what it was. It's a teen romance that encourages questioning your beliefs and being proactive about your future. There's a nice environmental message. It's an easy read and entirely unobjectional. But if you're looking for time travel hijinks, you'll be disappointed. For instance, no one actually time travels during the course of the novel. THE HERE AND NOW is a fine beach read, nothing mind blowing.