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Estelle: The Here and Now by Ann Brashares

The Here and Now by Ann BrasharesThe Here and Now by Ann Brashares ( web | tweet )
Publication Date: April 8, 2014
Publisher: Random House / Delacorte Press
Pages: 288
Target audience: Young adult
Keywords: semi-dystopian, time travel, romance, secret mission
Format read: ARC from Publisher via NetGalley

Summary: Prenna has traveled to the present from the future. Due to the rules she and the rest of her group must follow, life is a little bland except for her friendship (strictly friendship) with Ethan, a kid in her classes. When a strange homeless man warns her about what her people are doing and an upcoming event that will change everything unless she stops it, her doubts about the rules and how she is “living” start to take over. Can Prenna trust Ethan without totally letting her guard down? Most importantly, can they stop the plague from infiltrating the present?

As a long-time fan of Ann Brashares, The Here and Now was one of my most anticipated novels of the year. It’s been just too long since she’s had new work out!

Here are some things I can count on from Ann: beautiful, flowing prose, chemistry between characters, that feeling of not wanting to put down her books for a second, and also, tenderness. I’m happy to say you can find all of these things in The Here and Now. In fact, those qualities were so strong in this book, I stayed up practically all night to finish it.

But. Unfortunately there’s a but: I wanted more. 

This problem is kind of a good one to have, if you think about it. I was so invested in Brashares’ future world from the tiny details — how everyone who traveled to present day had bad eye sight and were required to wear glasses, leaders who monitored everyone so heavily, their own medical advancements ignored despite their needs — especially because they came trickling in all throughout the book. But the most heartbreaking was Prenna having to ignore her memories of the people she was living with in present-day NYC. She had to stick to safe conversations about clothes and could never mention her father (who didn’t come with them on the journey) or moments she remembered from her past. That was probably one of the saddest and loneliest circumstances I’ve ever read about. I couldn’t imagine.

Prenna and Ethan’s chemistry was apparent from the beginning but because she was forced to not get intimate with a “time native” their friendship was a tricky one. He was the first to be welcoming to her when she came to school, he had cute nicknames for her, and he took a lot of pleasure in teaching her how to play a card game. (Plus he never made fun of her for not knowing what normal teenagers know.) I didn’t blame her for imagining more with him, and when they are pushed together to stop some huge cataclysmic event, those feelings continue to grow as does their closeness.

He always seems to know so much about her, and he does. But even if they stop horrible things from happening, could they be together for good?

But despite these details I liked so much, the story felt a little thin. I wanted more background on the community, the future, a focus on the gap between Prenna and her mom, and more build up between Ethan and Prenna, but at least there were a few discoveries that make me want to go back and re-read.

I don’t know if any of you read My Name is Memory, an adult fiction book from Brashares that was supposed to be a part of a trilogy that never happened, but even though it’s been forever since I read it, I thought about it a lot while I was reading The Here and Now and I’m curious to re-read it.

To be honest, I’m actually torn over my rating for this one. This is a book that deserved more pages, and more development. The concept was so interesting. Normally, I would” borrow it” but since I have almost all of Brashares’ books in my collection, I’m leaning toward buying it — maybe not ASAP but eventually.

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April 27, 2014 - 6:06 pm

Hannah @ So Obsessed With - I actually kept thinking of My Name is Memory while I was reading this one, too! Now I want to re-read it. I couldn’t tell if I was thinking of it because the books were actually similar or if it was just because they both had time travel elements. I think you ended up liking this one a little more than I did, but I can definitely agree on everything feeling a bit thin. I enjoyed several aspects of the story, but I need MORE to really fall in love.

April 18, 2014 - 1:32 am

Sara (of The Page Sage) - I think I’ll check this one out from the library after reading your review. I love Ann Brashares’ writing and the world building sounds amazing, but that’s disappointing that the story itself isn’t ore fleshed-out.

April 12, 2014 - 10:06 am

Kelly - This was my first Brashares novel, and while I enjoyed it, I don’t think I connected with it for the same reasons you did. I didn’t find the prose overly memorable, if anything I felt it was a bit too sparse, and her characters were pretty cardboard. But I loved the time travel elements and felt compelled to keep reading to figure out all the details! I totally agree that it needed to be longer to flesh everything out more – I might have felt Prenna and Ethan’s relationship was stronger if it had been given more time to develop, instead of relying on their shared history that I had very little access to. It also might have made the ending feel more like an ending, and less like a beginning.

April 11, 2014 - 9:41 pm

Alexa S. - I’m still very much looking forward to reading THE HERE AND NOW. I do like Ann Brashares’ writing, and I really am curious to see how she tackles this new YA story! I’ve been hearing very mixed things, but overall, they do lean towards the positive, which is nice!

April 9, 2014 - 10:33 am

Candice @ The Grown-Up YA - I’ve never read anything by Brashares (despite owning a couple of the Traveling Pants books). I’m in the middle of reading this one and while it’s good – seriously, fantastic writing – I’m just bored. I’m feeling as though I’m missing something and keep wondering if I’ve skipped a chapter or two. I’m interested in seeing where the plot is going but I have a feeling it will be a very forgettable book for me.

April 8, 2014 - 12:48 pm

Brittany @ The Book Addict's Guide - Interesting! Glad to see your thoughts on this one because I’ve just been struggling to pick it up. I have an ARC but every time I tried to start, I was just afraid of being disappointed. It sounds like it could use a little more but definitely enjoyable!

April 8, 2014 - 11:30 am

Tiff @ Mostly YA Lit - This one frustrated me so much, because, like you, Estelle, I was waiting for a new Ann Brashare novel. I can’t believe how disappointed I was in it – I think you liked it better than I did, maybe because you connected with the characters more? They fell totally flat for me – I just couldn’t get into them.

I did love the writing, and yeah, there were moments of tenderness, but man, the thinness of the story combined with my lack of connection made it a very disappointing read. I’ll still pick up whatever she writes, but honestly, I don’t know if I’ll ever be as happy with her work as I was with Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants…

April 7, 2014 - 9:22 pm

Taylor @ Reading is the Thing - Though I’m a fan of the Sisterhood books, I haven’t read any of Brashares’ other novels. I get the impression that they’ve disappointed readers, and many of the reviews for this one have been so/so. I think I’ll probably pass on it, but I’m glad you got so invested that you wanted more. Thank you for your review!

April 7, 2014 - 11:55 am

Meg - As a longtime fan of Brashares, I’m a little embarrassed to admit I had no idea she had a new work out! This sounds like an intriguing concept, but I always get a little annoyed and skeptical when the world-building in these futuristic stories leaves so very much to the imagination. I’m sure I’ll still give this one a whirl, though. Great review!

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