The Plot: It’s 1996 and Emma Nelson, 16, just got a new computer. She takes an AOL CD-ROM and downloads the program using dial up; a few hours later, she is on-line looking at something with an odd name. Facebook. Even odder, there’s a photo of a woman who looks like her, only older. An Emma Nelson Jones, “contemplating highlights,” married to someone named Jordan Jones Jr. This Emma is a graduate of Lake Forest High School — Emma goes to Lake Forest High School — and has a birth date of July 24, Emma’s birthday. What is going on? Who is Jordan Jones Jr.?
As Emma tries to figure out what is going on, she shows her next door neighbor, Josh, her ‘Facebook’ and he looks at his which shows an older Josh married to the prettiest girl in school, with three cute kids and an amazing house.
Is this a joke — or a real look into the future? And if it is the future, can it be changed?
The Good: Emma and Josh tell the story in alternating chapters. They glimpse their future, but it’s a future that changes, sometimes for very small reasons and in subtle ways. One day, Emma’s Facebook talks about eating the comfort food mac’n’cheese; 1996 Emma eats mac’n’cheese when angry; and when 1996 Emma checks in on Facebook, future Emma now talks about her comfort food being lasagna. For no obvious reason, Josh’s future children change (a son and twin girls, no, a baby on the way, no, twins) while his future wife, home, and career always remain the same.
Knowing their future also impacts their present: Josh looks at the pretty popular girl who he has never even said “hello” to and wonders why she keeps showing up in his future. Knowing he is going to marry her gives Josh the courage to talk with her. Emma is jealous of the winning life Josh seems destined to have, while she has ever-changing spouses and ever-changing homes that don’t reflect any of the desires or dreams she has in the present.
What Emma and Josh learn that is more important than the butterfly theory is, well, the attitude theory. What is one’s attitude towards life? How does that shape present and future choices and actions?
Aside from the question of “the future of us”, The Future of Us is fun to read to because of all the 1996 references in Emma and Josh’s present, as well as to see how the two react to the future world– a world they see only via Facebook pages. What is it with all the updates about food?