Reviews / Teen Reads

The Near-Future and the Near-Past (“Girl Parts” and “The Future of Us”)

 

I’ve been busy

Sadly, I have broken the golden rule of blogging (which is to blog at regular intervals). I’m a student! It’s nearing the end of the semester! I had a birthday and then Thanksgiving!

 

In short: please forgive me and cut me some slack. My intentions to write in-depth reviews of certain books are falling short (alas!). I’m contemplating doing nutshell reviews instead, which might be more appropriate for the web and my schedule.

Reviews! Of the teen-readership variety

The Future of Us Cover Image

penguingroup.com

 

The Future of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler. New York: Razorbill, 2011. ISBN 9781595144911

Setting: 1996!

Read it: For (friendly) romance.

candlewick.com

candlewick.com

Girl Parts by John M. Cusick.

Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press, 2010.

ISBN 9780763649302

Setting: the near future…

Read it!

 

 

Themes!

Both of these books are about expectations (and relationships). And be aware that my relationships with these books were affected by my own expectations for them.

 

 

The Future of Us

  • Expectations for self.
  • How we can (and cannot) influence our own futures. Knowledge of the future might have effects on the present.
  • How we evaluate our happiness. And should we?

Girl Parts

  • Expectations for self, sex and relationships, with the question of whether technology creates or destroys community thrown in.
  • What “parts” of us matter, and to whom?
  • The expectations we have for ourselves and the expectations others have of us: which is more important?
  • Also: what makes us human?

Point of View, Character, Pacing, Plot

The Future of Us

  • Narrated by the two main characters, Emma and Josh.
  • The characters are not so different from each other that this narration-style had a major impact on me.
  • The growth of Emma and Josh’s relationship, a major factor I’ve noticed in dual-narration romantic teen books (like Across the Universe by Beth Revis, which I am currently reading) didn’t seem to progress as smoothly as I might have expected.
  • I think this problem I experienced with the book’s pacing was also a result of its plot. As an avid reader of sci-fi/fantasy, the fact that this book hinges on a mysterious ability to log on to 2011 Facebook pre-Facebook, which (spoiler – sorry) mysteriously disappears at the end of the book bothered me. The conceit is free-floating, and as a result, individual character storyline seems to be as well.
  • There is little to no immediate danger or need in the text as well.  Since actions taken in 1996 are affecting characters in 2011, which we only experience via a Facebook page, it’s hard to relate to the future selves of Emma and Josh.
  • That said, the pace of reading for this book was great. It is a quick read with short chapters and encourages readers to keep going until they are done. The book spans a one-week period, which also helps.

Girl Parts

  • We follow two boys, David and Charlie, who serve as character foils, and Rose, a female “companion” robot. Transitions from character to character with a constant through-line in the plot are pretty much seamless and aided by the plot, in which Rose travels from spending time with one character (David, more dominant towards the beginning of the book) to another (Charlie, with whom the reader ultimately spends more time).
  • Each character grows. A lot. In unexpected ways. And the growth feels natural.
  • Secondary characters are also interesting and for the most part, well-rounded.
  • I read this book almost all in one sitting. Because I HAD TO. It compelled me to do so.
  • Not going to say a ton about the plot, because it would just be gushing. I loved this book, it has depth without feeling like its forcing depth upon you. The story keeps moving, and the reader has to move with it.

Potential problems…

The Future of Us

  • Teen novel…with old technology references

I’m in my late 20s, and this read well for me because I remembered a lot of the technology which was being referenced, particularly at the beginning of the book. For younger teens, I wanted a small glossary.

 

Thankfully, the technological references, which seem a bit overdone (as in: “It’s 1996! Don’t forget!”) settle down within the first few chapters. But what is overkill for me might be the right introduction for someone who has never installed AOL on their computer via a cd-rom. Or listened to Dave Matthews Band on a Discman.

Although there were quite a few music references I found distracting (but accurate) since I’d listened to all of it in 1996, it would be a great idea to make a mix-tape (or playlist, yes) for teens reading the book now.

  • The website around which The Future of Us centers is Facebook.

But this book is in no way about Facebook. Facebook is merely a useful tool for the central plot, and probably useful for marketing as well. I was definitely drawn in thinking there would be more interaction with the site and the idea of web identity; I imagine other readers might pick up this book expecting the same.

 

If you are looking for a book that addresses the question “Is who we are on the internet who we really are?” this is not the book for you. If you’re looking for a romance between friends (and not necessarily Facebook friends), then read away.

Girl Parts

  • As one might expect from the title, there are some explicit bits – but not as much as a parent, teacher, or librarian might think. There’s more science-book sexual terminology than actual sex scenes. Any sex present in the novel is rather rapidly and depicted by emotional, rather than physical, state.

The End.

Okay, I just blogged for over an hour instead of 15 minutes. Happy reading in YOUR near-future!

 

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