The Future of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler

We’ve all wondered what our lives would be like fifteen years from now; imagine what it would be like to discover the Facebook page of your thirty-year-old self.  In The Future of UsJay Asher and Carolyn Mackler explore this very intriguing idea.

Set in 1996, Josh and Emma do not know what Facebook is – mainly because it will not be invented for another eight years, but what they do know is their friendship is not what it used to be.  Having lived next to each other their whole lives, the two had always been the best of friends.  Recently things have been awkward between them, after Josh revealed his feelings for Emma six months ago, they don’t see each as much and they don’t talk like they used to.

Things take an interesting turn when Josh offers Emma a free AOL CD that his family received in the mail. After installing it on her computer, Emma discovers the Facebook page of her future self.  Soon afterwards, they find Josh’s profile, and they find out about their future spouses, jobs, homes, and friends.

The novel follows the pair as they continue to look at their future Facebook profiles, which changes each time they look at it. Josh and Emma soon find out that the choices they make in the present have an effect on their futures, and they soon realise that knowing the future is far more dangerous than they anticipated.

The Future of Us is told from the perspectives of Emma and Josh, both sharing the role of narrator as they alternate the telling of each chapter. It’s a smart way of keeping the storytelling interesting and uses the talents and insights of Asher and Mackler really well. The main characters do come off as too self-centred, although this may be Asher and Mackler trying to authenticate the thinking of your stereotypical teenager.

There is a strong sense of nostalgia for those old enough to remember the Internet’s pre-Facebook era. However, the target audience is predominately for the millennium generation who only know of a world with Facebook. It is unlikely younger kids know the struggles of a dial up connection, or having to talk to friends on the shared home phone line. Otherwise, it is an interesting way of giving younger kids insight on growing up in the ’90s.

The novel also poses some excellent commentary on the way that people use social media and what we choose to share with others – friends and strangers alike. For example, Josh asks, “Why does it say she has three hundred and twenty friends? Who has that many friends?” As most social media users know, our online circle of ‘friends’ can be entirely different to who we actually consider to be our friends. Such a concept would have been difficult to grasp in the ’90s before the social media age. Josh’s comment, “Why would anyone say this stuff about themselves on the Internet? It’s crazy!” highlights that we easily share trivial, or personal information about ourselves online, but think nothing of it.

The idea behind the novel is a unique and refreshing one. It takes an idea we have all thought about and puts a 21st Century spin on it. You’ll come to see that this is the story of two young people trying to work out the difference between what they want and what they think what. As Josh and Emma struggle to find the balance between the present and the future, they also struggle for find the balance between their friendship and their feelings for each other.

Image Attribution: The Future of Us Facebook