When NetGalley offered a new book by Ann Brashares, I was probably one of the first to request it. I am not ashamed to admit that I read every book in the Traveling Pants series, despite the fact that I was slightly beyond a young adult when they came out. People who know me well understand the effect they had on me. I remember reading one book after my friend read it, and she chuckled knowingly a day or so later when I mentioned I was going to take up running. Having avoided running for many years, it was an odd statement for me to make. But what was more embarrassing was when my wise friend called me on it — “you know you only want to run because you’re reading that book”. And yes, I was. Ann Brashares made running sound so relaxing, almost meditative. It didn’t hurt that the runner was young and thin, and that she, unlike me, really didn’t need to run for exercise. Her running was graceful, effortless, the kind of runner you watch (while you’re driving) and you think, wow, that’s not at all how it looks when I run. So I knew before I started The Here and Now that Ann Brashares had the ability to influence me, and to help me make not very rational decisions, so I was cautious, but optimistic.
With The Here and Now, Brashares throws her pen into the ring of the apparently lucrative field of dystopian fiction. Yes, that’s a sentence, in case you were wondering. See, she even makes me write weirdly. In any case, this story is a time-travel-apocalypse kind of book. There are a couple of interesting plot lines, and the characters seem genuine. There was a hint of Twilight in the way the travelers identified each other in school, but I’m not sure why. I found Brashares’ backstory about the future depressing but also thought provoking. Some of the characters have real depth to them; they make you forget the not so fully developed ones. Prenna James, the protagonist, is almost an ordinary 12-year-old girl, except she’s not. I don’t want to spoil this for you, so I won’t say too much. This is not an ultra techy kind of story. There are some moral arguments, and maybe one or two things to make you think more about the present, in terms of our future. But at the end of the day, no matter what elements I might find to pick at, I still enjoyed this book. Maybe I just like the way she writes; I find her stories compelling. And honestly, I’m just happy I didn’t take up running again.