Thanks to NetGalley and Amazon Vine, book critics can sneak-preview ARCs (Advance Review Copies) of novels that are sure to become best sellers. Most novels fail my page-one or chapter-one test, but others are delightful surprises. This is one of them.
The Here and Now by Ann Brashares ine of the best YA novels of the year–quite a departure from the best-selling “Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants” series but every bit as magical. The “magic” here is time travel and one guy’s gift at seeing….well….not auras (people in real life claim to see these) but a sort of physics equivalent. Fascinating premise. The chemistry between Prenna and Ethan is even more dangerous and forbidden than Edward the vampire wanting to devour Bella (in a literal sense). Brasheres writes their story in straightforward, compelling prose, well written and carefully edited, which is not something book reviewers ever noticed as much as we do these days with all the embarrassment of self-pubs and small press novels that sorely needed more proofreading, trimming and tightening. In all, this novel is a sheer pleasure to read even though it had me on edge, expecting the tragic death of our Romeo.
One grumble, but it’s true for all time-travel tales: there’s just no way to keep it all plausible. If someone from the future goes back in time and dies there, that person’s descendants should blink out of existence, right? In “Back to the Future” it was a major concern, but in most novels and movies, story-tellers take the liberty of making time travel accomplish what the characters need it to. Brashares offers a perfect rationalization for this on twitter:
Writing about the future has certain advantages. You can be preposterous, but you can’t exactly be wrong.
This is the story of seventeen-year-old Prenna James, who immigrated to New York when she was twelve. Except Prenna didn’t come from a different country. She came from a different time—a future where a mosquito-borne illness has mutated into a pandemic, killing millions and leaving the world in ruins.Prenna and the others who escaped to the present day must follow a strict set of rules: never reveal where they’re from, never interfere with history, and never, ever be intimate with anyone outside their community. Prenna does as she’s told, believing she can help prevent the plague that will one day ravage the earth.But everything changes when Prenna falls for Ethan Jarves.From the Hardcover edition.
Brashares is one of my favorite novelists. Next time someone asks me whose writing I admire most, she’ll be up there with Joyce Carol Oates and Larry McMurtree. As an English major I’m supposed to say Hemingway or Fitzgerald, Shakespeare or whoever, but for authors who keep me turning pages and caring about the characters, Brasheres ranks with the best.
Ann Brashares is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series, 3 Willows, The Last Summer (of You & Me), and My Name Is Memory. She lives in New York City with her husband and their four children.