I’m a sucker for time travel stories. I love Doctor Who (well, I did. I’m not really feeling the Matt Smith incarnation, but that’s a story for another day). I enjoy books like The Time Traveller’s Wife and 11/22/63. When I read the reviews that a few other Cannonballers had written about The Future of Us, I made a mental note to add it to my list. Two days ago, I saw it being reshelved at my library and decided to move it to the top of the reading pile.
For those unaware, The Future of Us is the story of Emma and Josh, next door neighbors and former best friends who discover a weird portal to the future when they install AOL on Emma’s new computer in 1996. After AOL welcomes them, they find a link to a website called “Facebook” under their favorites tab, and figure out that they can see how their lives will look 15 years in the future. And that those futures seem to change every time they hit the refresh button.
They quickly realize that every decision and action that they make in 1996 has an effect on their future lives in 2011. (SPOILER) Emma doesn’t like the treatment she’s getting from her future husband? She calls him up (after going to the public library to find his phone number in an actual phone book, not using Google), and simply asks where he went to college. When she finds out he goes to Tampa State, the school she was putting at the top of her applications list, she simply decides not to apply there. The next time she looks at her Facebook page, she’s married to someone else in the future.
Even miniscule actions and decisions lead to changes in their futures. Pour water on the carpet and find out that in the future you’ll live in Ohio. Mention that you’ll never live in Ohio, and find out that you live in London. And so on and so forth.
The Future of Us was written in alternating chapters, with Emma narrating first, and then Josh. I have to assume that each author was in charge of one of the characters, but it doesn’t specifically spell out how the writing was done. Did Carolyn Mackler write the character of Emma? Or Josh? I have no idea. But I found Josh to be the more complete and far more likable of the two. Emma spent too much time whining about her future and blaming everyone else for her bad future decisions, while Josh simply took control of his own life in the present in order to decide if the future as written on Facebook was the right one for him.
Not my favorite time travel story, but a fun, quick read. I enjoyed all of the 90s references and remembering how life was back before everything was online and immediate.