Thursday, January 26, 2012

Jen's Pick: The Future of Us...Your Future on Facebook

Greetings! My name is Jennifer, and I work with young adult books at the Charleston County Public Library. Welcome to my random thoughts about books for teens. If a book grabs you, click on the title to reserve a copy…or click here to search CCPL's e-books. Happy reading!

The Future of Us
       The Future of Us

Carolyn Mackler
Imagine seeing your Facebook self 15 years in the future. Maybe you’re married to the hottest guy or girl in school, you’re making big bucks, and you have a gaggle of cute kids? Awesome!

Sure, but what if your future life really stinks?

In it, Emma and Josh live back in ancient 1996, before the birth of the Facebook social cosmos. They are neighbors and longtime buddies (predictable romantic tension included), and the book is told from their alternating viewpoints. It opens with Josh bringing Emma a CD-ROM so she can install the hot new techno wonder, AOL, onto her very first desktop computer.

With lots of jabs at old technology, the book might get a few snickers from the post-30 set, but I wonder if today’s teens will find references to Windows 95 retro and cool…or just dusty and dull? 

Either way, 97 minutes of download later (back when modems tied up your phone line), a box pops up on Emma’s computer screen for Facebook. Click on it and voila! Smiling back is an adult woman who looks oddly like Emma, who was born on the same day, and graduated from the high school Emma attends. Yikes! Is that a gray hair I see?

Yep, it’s grown-up Emma whose Facebook account appears through a leap forward in time that the book never really explains.

This flash-forward could be good news if your future self is married to the hottest, brainiest, sweetest (pick your weakness) person in school – which is sort of what Josh sees in his future. Sadly, let’s just say Emma's future isn't so rosy.

But if you could change a crummy future, would you?

Emma finds out how big and small things we do — or think — can change our futures. Take a great guy for granted? He might not be a Facebook friend of tomorrow. Practice unsafe sex, drink and drive, fail out of school. See how that turns out for your future self.

Thirteen Reasons Why
This book taps into an important theme from Asher’s Thirteen Reasons Why, a fantastic read about a girl who commits suicide and leaves behind tapes for the 13 people she believes played a role. It shows how small things we do to other people — even just ignoring them — can devastate, especially if that person is already in a bad place.

In The Future of Us, the authors explore how tinkering with tomorrow can have some bummer side effects. For example, if you never meet your jerky future husband, those cute kids in your future family photo won't exist anymore. Now that's pressure.

Maybe what's really important is that we make the best decisions possible today, realizing life makes no promises about tomorrow.

The Future of Us is not especially well-written, and the romantic dalliances feel pretty sterile. But the concept of seeing people’s future Facebook selves is original and interesting. I laughed at the Facebook jabs, especially regarding the mundane and oddly TMI things people post.

I’m in a bad mood.

My life totally sucks.

Just went to Target. Luv their socks!

Really? When Josh starts reading people’s status updates, he remarks, “Why would anyone say this stuff on the Internet?” Ha. Now, that’s funny. And what about the pressure to amass 500 “friends” we barely know? Seriously, does high school ever really end? Not on Facebook.

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