It was the concept behind THE FUTURE OF US (Razorbill, 2011) that totally sold me. Well, that and my YA author crush on Jay Asher (13 REASONS WHY).
In TFOU, it's 1996 — before the Internet is a part of our daily life and requires dialing in through AOL. With one click of the mouse, lifelong friends and neighbors Josh and Emma discover what the Internet, and their futures, will be like.
Things have been awkward between the two since they got their wires crossed about taking their friendship to another level, and so Josh is hesitant to take the new AOL disk to Emma when it arrives in the mail. But his mom insists. They install it on her new computer and Emma discovers a very strange website. Turns out it's Facebook. Which, of course, doesn't exist. Yet.
Reading status updates and friend comments on their FB pages fifteen years in the future gives Josh and Emma a glimpse at what will become of their relationship, and it's not a pretty sight. Emma starts to realize that everything they do, in reaction to what they now know, starts to change things -- in the present and on their Facebook futures. How much control do they really have over where they end up? How much do they want to have?
It's an interesting way of not only letting today's teens get a taste for what it was like to be a teen before texting, chat and social media became primary ways to communicate. And while the situations stay just this side of eye-roll-inducing "back when I was your age" fare (what? you couldn't surf the Net and talk on the phone at the same time? what? you couldn't see pictures right after you took them? wha-what?) the idea of looking into the future through the lens of Facebook should inspire some contemplation.
While far from the edgy and socially conscious 13 REASONS WHY, Asher and Mackler (THE EARTH, MY BUTT, AND OTHER BIG ROUND THINGS) weave an intriguing story. It's interesting that even in the past, Facebook becomes an emotional time-suck for Emma, revealing slivers of truth that cause her to feel and behave differently than she would if she didn't "know" things -- about herself, her friends and how their lives will dramatically change.
And there's always the question of how much do you WANT to know about your future. Because once you know, you can never UNknow. And does the simple act of knowing (even if you take no action) change the way things would have unfolded?
Deep thoughts. An entertaining and interesting book.
The characters are in high school (and do high school-age things) but 7th and 8th graders (struggling with the ease and danger that technology and social media bring to communication) will love it too.