It’s 1996. You’re about to log onto the Internet for the very first time. The World Wide Web is about to be opened up to you…exciting right? Imagine though if that very first time you were faced with a strange website called Facebook, and even stranger it seems to be you updating it…well your future self that is.
That’s exactly what happens when Emma receives her first desktop from her Dad. Confused at first she calls in Josh, life long neighbour and friend to take a look. At first he’s convinced someone’s playing a prank…until they discover Emma’s friends list and realise he also has a page. As it dawns that this is themselves, fifteen years in their future, they both feel very different about what they see. While Josh can’t believe he’s married to the most popular girl in school, Emma’s concerned by her clearly miserable and lonely life. When she realises decisions she makes now can affect the future according to Facebook she becomes obsessed. But knowing the future is a dangerous thing. Changing it might be even worse.
This book appealed on so many levels I just had to get a copy as soon as it was released. I was a teen when the Internet first arrived in homes and schools and can distinctly remember loading up cd-roms and painfully waiting for dial up pages to load. The Future Of Us was certainly a nostalgia trip for me, even down to the fashions, TV shows and Discmans.
The idea of coming across Facebook before it was even invented and seeing your future life played out was genius. Who wouldn’t be tempted by that? Emma and Josh’s perplexity at the things they were posting about in the future was hilarious. If someone had described Facebook to me fifteen years ago I’d probably have thought it sounded ridiculous too.
Aside from the nostalgia I was also intrigued by the time slip element in this book. Emma becomes obsessed with changing her future and then checking its implications on Facebook and I thought this would be fascinating. Unfortunately I think a massive opportunity was missed here to make this book brilliant. The idea is fantastic, the execution is disappointing and the authors just don’t explore things enough. It’s all very surface, I wanted to know so much more. Why did this happen? What are the far-reaching repercussions? What do the characters learn from it all? The opportunity to change your future is unbelievably fascinating but sadly, all Emma comes across in being interested in is which guy she ends up with.
I also felt I just didn’t connect with either of the characters. The book is told from both Josh and Emma’s viewpoint and is written by two authors. I’ve no idea which parts where written by whom, whether they each wrote a character or contributed to both so I don’t think the issue was down to two styles not meshing. I think it’s down to a lack of depth and detailing. By the end I had no idea why this pair were as connected as they were. I also wonder how teens today will relate to this book; after all it’s aimed at them yet the most enjoyable part of it for me was the 90’s nostalgia. I’m not convinced they’ll truly get it.
If you take The Future Of Us as a piece of easy, fluffy story telling then it’s an enjoyable read. I can’t deny I flew through it in a couple of hours. If you start scratching the surface though then you realise there’s a lot of faults. Not least the ease with which Emma accepts Facebook in the first place and understands it’s from her own future. I found this an easy and entertaining enough read, but ultimately unsatisfying. I rated this book as three stars on goodreads when I finished reading it, now as I write my review I realise it has pretty big flaws and think I was possibly a little generous. If you find yourself with a copy of The Future Of Us I’d say as a quick easy read it does the job. On the other hand I wouldn’t recommend this as a must read and overall it was a disappointment.
Published January 2012 by Simon & Schuster Children’s books (UK)