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The Future of Us

The Future of Us - Jay Asher, Carolyn Mackler Like youth, it would see, time travel is wasted on the young. How else to explain the idiotic uses the teenage simpletons in The Future of Us find for the gift of a glimpse into the future? If, in 1996, you were given a window of the year 2011 via a magical link to your Facebook profile, would you, A) search as many profiles as you could to find out what happens in the worlds of politics and finance in order to ensure your financial future, B) seek out information on friends and family not only to satisfy your curiosity about what is going to happen to all of them, but to discover if they have any tragedies looming in their futures that you could help prevent, or C) look at nothing beyond your own profile and relationship status and obsess about it endlessly while showing just about zero interest in why and how you have managed to access an internet wormhole into the future or anyone other than your own stupid self?The Future of Us takes a fun -- if slightly Adam Sandler-ish -- concept and does absolutely nothing interesting with it. It is, in fact, the opposite of interesting, in that it is monumentally dull and insipid. Sorry, I know. Young adult novel. Maybe if I was 14, I would find nothing more fascinating than reading about unrequited love between two teenaged friends. Then again, if I wanted to read that, there was always my diary journal.So here we have a story told in alternating chapters by two insufferable narrators: Josh is a sad sack who has never gotten over his failed attempt to turn his friendship with best buddy Emma into that ever elusive "more." Emma is a BOYS BOYS BOYS I LOVE BOYS WHICH BOY IS CUTEST? Oops, sorry. Don't know what happened there.After a run-of-the-mill AOL CD (but the first of many, many irritating "OMG THE '90S!" moments) mysteriously connects her to Facebook, Emma discovers that in 15 years she will be BOYS BOYS BOYS. God. That is annoying. In 15 years she will be trapped in a loveless marriage. Maybe -- she is really reading a lot into innocuous status updates like "Went to hubby's favorite restaurant last night." (WHY AREN'T WE GOING TO MY FAVORITE RESTAURANT CLEARLY I AM A FEW HOURS AWAY FROM DROWNING THE KIDS IN THE BATHTUB AND SETTING MYSELF ON FIRE). Distraught, she shares her secret with Josh, whose own profile reveals that he eventually marries the hottest girl in school; he immediately gets a boner that doesn't go down for the rest of the book. From there, the plot involves Emma constantly trying to "fix" her future via nonsensical butterfly-wing-flapping type cause-and-effect manipulations, even as Josh tries to maintain the status quo while holding a book over his crotch and trying to convince himself he is so totally over Emma (RUN RUN AWAY NOW). I assume you have guessed how it ends from reading this paragraph. Ignoring the fact that the setup is so half-assed (come on, you don't want to even attempt to justify the Facebook thing? The CD wasn't discovered in a mysterious disappearing Radio Shack? Don Knotts didn't provide tech support?), the vaguely amusing concepts at its core are wasted on the two dullest, least inquisitive and most narcissistic teenagers imaginable ("Ha ha," you say, "that is all teenagers!" then adding, "Ow, stop punching me in the face!"). Seriously, after spending several hundred pages doing nothing but reading their own status updates, they make a pact to not look at anything else on the site because... because... because the co-authors didn't want to put that much effort into exploring their premise, I guess.Anyway, that's all beside the point, because what really annoyed me about this one is how self-satisfied it is. Clearly after coming up with the idea, the authors were content to build the entire plot around winking at the audience, as such: remember 1996? Remember how we didn't have DSL or smartphones or google or social networking? WASN'T THAT WEIRD? This is accomplished through constant cheesy '90s references, littered with brand names and awkward cultural signposts. There are a lot of sentences like, "I strapped on my ROLLERBLADES® and slipped the new DAVE MATTHEWS® CD® into my DISCMAN®" Or characters have conversations like the following (loosely paraphrased but not at all exaggerated):PERSON A: I have no problem with gay people. My dad and I love Ellen DeGeneres, and he thinks she's gay.PERSON B: Ellen DeGeneres isn't gay!Or like when someone goes, more or less, "It's like Vice President Gore was saying the other day, the World Wide Web will be a gateway to blah blah blah." Yeah, teens in the '90s LOVED quoting the vice president! My friends and I couldn't stop! Screw The Simpsons; we'd have Al Gore quote-offs every day at lunch! (Confidential to Al Gore: No offense. You were pretty boring for a decade or so there.)And that's not even getting into the constant mistakes with the timeframe, like repeated awkward mentions of fancy new DVD technology a year before it was even test-marketed, let alone widely available at rental stores (they didn't even bother to look up when Wayne's World came out on DVD! WHY BOTHER IF YOU AREN'T GOING TO AT LEAST GOOGLE IT ARGH). Also, no one said "baby bump" in 1996. They just didn't.