The Here and Now: That Traveling Pants Lady is Writing Time Travel Novels?
“Wait . . . Ann Brashares? You mean that Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants woman?? Why are you reviewing her book here???”
This is what you may be asking yourself. And you’re not wrong to be asking it—Ann Brashares is indeed the author of the Traveling Pants books, and while there is something sci-fi-ish about a magical pair of jeans that perfectly fits four different girls with four very different body types, it’s not exactly MindHut fodder. But Brashares has written a new book, one that has interesting elements of sci-fi and time travel, so we wanted to see if it would measure up.
One thing is for sure: Ann Brashares proves she knows how to write a suspenseful story in The Here and Now. The novel is about a teenager named Prenna James, who traveled through time to present-day New York City. Prenna’s from a future where global warming has had its devastating impact, giving rise to all kinds of diseases, the most horrifying of which is spread through mosquitos. There is no hope and there is no cure; the only chance was for Prenna and her group to travel backwards through time.
“Of course,” you’re thinking. “They’re going to change the future and somehow prevent the decline of civilization.” Well, no, not exactly. Not really at all, in fact. The group lives by 12 strict rules that, in effect, prevent socialization with “time natives” and bar any changes to the timeline whatsoever. Their goal is just to live their quiet lives.
Prenna hasn’t though too much about the ethics of her group’s existence until she starts falling for Ethan (cue obligatory teen angst love story), a time native who has taken an interest in her. And then comes the dramatic music. . . .
The story is certainly interesting, and seems to be different than the typical dystopian/sci fi novels that populate young adult fiction. The fact that it takes place in our world, and we only receive hints and whispers of where Prenna came from, heightens the tension. We know it’s bad, but it’s hard to say just how bad; Prenna doesn’t talk about it much. Brashares’ world building is a bit sketchy, but that’s not necessarily a criticism. The glimpses she does provide are fascinating and keep the reader engaged, as they want more.
The characters are also well done; Prenna’s growth from meek, subservient group member to rebellious possible leader is both believable and satisfying. Ethan is almost a little too trusting, but he’s also smart and loyal, two qualities that are difficult to argue with. It’s kind of hard to believe they’re in looooovvvveeee considering how fast it happens, but they do have chemistry, and Brashares writes it well.
Our real complaint about The Here and Now is the recurring conflict between us and a lot of YA fiction: the romance. Come on, seriously people. The world is ending. You have maybe 24 hours to stop it, and you don’t have much of a plan. So OF COURSE you spend a bunch of time buying a bathing suit and frolicking on the beach, being all lovey dovey. Because teenagers are stupid, senseless, hormone driven creatures that only care about themselves and the BOY THEY LOVE.
We at The MindHut think teenagers are a lot smarter and more savvy than this. And yes, love stories are nice in all kinds of fiction, whether the world is ending or not. Love’s important and shouldn’t disappear just because things are difficult and dramatic. But sometimes it gets taken way, way too far.
That being said, The Here and Now is a really well-written and smart book. It’s suspenseful, with interesting characters and situation, and it’s got a great back story. The book isn’t necessarily fashioned as the first in a series, as it stands on its own two feet, but it is definitely open to a sequel, and we really hope that Brashares will write one. We’d love to see how Prenna continues to grow and change in future novels. Minus the beach frolicking, of course.
What non-sci fi YA novelist do you want to see tackle sci fi?