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Readers Advisory: The Here and Now

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Delacorte Press, $18.99 hardcover, ISBN-10 0385736800, April 2014

This is the story of seventeen-year-old Prenna James, who immigrated to New York when she was twelve. Except Prenna didn’t come from a different country. She came from a different time—a future where a mosquito-borne illness has mutated into a pandemic, killing millions and leaving the world in ruins. Prenna and the others who escaped to the present day must follow a strict set of rules: never reveal where they’re from, never interfere with history, and never, ever be intimate with anyone outside their community. Prenna does as she’s told, believing she can help prevent the plague that will one day ravage the earth. But everything changes when Prenna falls for Ethan Jarves.

Some authors only have one good book or series in them, and so far, Ann Brashares’s big hit has been her Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series. I don’t want Brashares to be a one-hit wonder, but this flawed, overwrought scifi romance doesn’t look like the start of a new runaway hit. Instead, it feels like a rough draft. We’re given a basic setup (time travelers from the future come back to our time to escape/stop a plague), a pair of attractive leads, and then Brashares is off to the races without fleshing out the world or the characters. Although the future society had impressive enough technology to create time travel and sophisticated spy equipment, they seem to have brought little of it with them, and Prenna often talks about how people from our time take the ability to go outside for granted and obsess over screens instead. It feels preachy. The development of her relationship with Ethan isn’t shown, and their interactions are too cutesy to be believed. For example, he has about twenty thousand adorable nicknames for her that no self-respecting male would go around saying out loud. Of course he’s the perfect gentleman, and just so irresistible that Prenna can’t help falling for him, but we never really see him being irresistible. Just bland. Through a strange sequence of increasingly unbelievable events, Prenna and Ethan become the only two people on the planet who can avert global disaster (of course), sending them on a journey that mostly exists as an excuse to get the characters alone together, only to find an answer conveniently scripted to keep them from being together.

All in all, an overwrought, nonsensical romance too random and silly to merit a series.

Recommend to: Readers who like anything romance

To buy or not to buy: I know her first series is popular still, but trust me, this one’s an additional purchase.

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