“Follow the rules. Remember what happened. Never fall in love.”
These are some of the rules that Prenna, the seventeen-year-old protagonist of The Here and Now, faces. Prenna lives in the present, but she immigrates here, to New York, from the future. Prenna comes from a time plagued with – well – a deadly plague, that is transferred to humans from mosquitoes. As the death toll rises and the climate turns inhospitable, Prenna and approximately one thousand other people travel back in time to 2014, before the world turns dangerous.
Now Prenna and her people live by a rigid twelve rules, which forbid them from drawing attention to themselves, from showing up in photographs, or from doing anything that may put their secret in jeopardy. The twelfth and final rule is as follows:
12. WE MUST NEVER, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, DEVELOP A PHYSICALLY OR EMOTIONALLY INTIMATE RELATIONSHIP WITH ANY PERSON OUTSIDE THE COMMUNITY.
This proves incredibly problematic for Prenna, who has an inexplicable connection with the sweet and good-looking Ethan Jarves.
I was incredibly intrigued by the premise of this book. I’ve wanted to read more books about time traveling ever since I read Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveler’s Wife back in high school. But while The Time Traveler’s Wife is a romance, I had trouble pinpointing the exact focus of this book. Was it a romance? Was it a coming-of-age story? Was it a dystopian thriller?
I’ve concluded it isn’t really dystopian, despite Prenna’s people essentially being brainwashed and controlled by their leaders through monitoring devices. The romantic aspects of the plot seemed to overtake the more-important (in my opinion) personal journey Prenna takes. So while I would consider this a sci-fi-centric romance, I really wished for it to be more of a coming-of-age tale. Prenna could have been a strong character, but this is overshadowed with her struggle with the swoon-worthy, always-around-at-the-perfect-time Ethan.
When a mysterious character tasks Prenna and Ethan with an extreme responsiblity – to prevent a death that alters the course of the future – they must embark on a journey that leaves Prenna with a lot of questions. Prenna must come to terms with the truth of her future, while simultaneously battling her feelings for Ethan. How can she give up on all of the lessons that have been drilled into her for years?
I really wanted to like Prenna as a main character, but I had trouble understanding exactly who she was. Around Ethan and her classmates she is shy and nervous, but in the face of authority she frequently talks back and challenges. Surely someone who feels so wounded and frightened would not challenge her superiors? These secondary characters, it should be mentioned, all felt like caricatures – the busy, no-nonsense mother, the boring counselor, the mean old lady who chastises Prenna for misbehaving, and the homeless, crazy old man who may not be so crazy after all.
And for a pair who essentially need to save the course of the future, Prenna and Ethan sure take a lot of breaks! There’s always enough time for a romantic, carefree day at the beach and a couple of hands of cards when the world is in peril. These scenes were sweet, but it stripped the plot of its danger.
Yes, the premise of The Here and Now is very cool in my opinion. And yes, I think readers who are looking for a romantic story with a sci-fi twist will love it. While I didn’t dislike the book, it’s just not what I was expecting.
Release Date: April 8, 2014