The Here and Now by Ann Brashares
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Prenna lives a closely guarded life of secrecy, a tightrope walk between fitting in and remaining unnoticed. Twelve unbreakable rules govern her behavior. Those who break them meet accident or relocation. So when Prenna befriends Ethan, a boy from school, she risks everything. Then she discovers that her people, immigrants from more than eighty years in the future, aren’t trying to stop the terrible future from happening, as they once claimed. And her father, who failed to make the journey with her, didn’t abandon the family as she’s been told. If she and Ethan are to save them all, they must follow the careful trail of clues he left behind before her leaders find her.
The idea of this group immigrating to the US illegally, not from another country, but from another time, really fascinated me. Prenna’s whole life exists in this cult-like environment. She’s watched. Punished for every infraction. Carefully taught to follow strict behavior. She struggles to fit in well enough not to be noticed at school. But Ethan can’t stop noticing her. His determined friendship is immensely charming. The way he accepts her without making her feel odd or lame? So sweet. If you’re a ‘book boyfriend’ type, he’s one for the list.
I ripped through the first half of the book, staying up WAY too late to read. I was about to force myself to put it down and go to sleep when this crazy plot twist happened and totally blew my mind. Then… the second lost steam. There’s a long passage in which Prenna explains what happened to the world between now and her time. That intense plot element that left me gasping? It gets resolved, but in a weird way. I felt like it needed a bigger moment or something. There is a moment where things get dicey, but the issue was the something terrible was supposed to happen on a particular day. And the day hadn’t ended when everyone was like, Whew, that was close. So I was kind of like, wait!! It’s not over yet!! Only, I guess no one else felt that way? I felt like that diffused the momentum.
The way the story concludes left me thinking there must be a sequel. I can’t find any information saying there will be one, though. I liked the first half of the story much better than the second, but I felt like the end didn’t satisfy if there’s no further story to look forward to. C’est la vie, I guess.
Fans of time traveling stories should consider giving this one a read. I liked that it had those elements of cult-ish-ness and the immigration issue. Definitely presented issues surrounding time travel in ways I hadn’t considered before. There’s a little bit of preaching about how important it is to save the planet no matter how expensive or inconvenient it may be. I agree, so it didn’t bother me.
Strong profanity used infrequently.
Prenna and Ethan discuss whether they should have sex. They share a bed and the back seat of a car, but for sleep. (He does get a teeny bit frisky with her in the bed, but she shuts it down. They plan to have sex, but then decide against it for safety reasons.
Prenna finds a man who has been beaten to death. She and Ethan try to stop a man from brutally murdering a woman. He attacks them. It’s brief and not particularly gory.
Prenna’s leaders give her pills each day that they insist are vitamins.