I know that Ann Brashares is a popular author of books for teens and young adults, although I have not read her before. The Here and Now is a departure for her, though, because, although set in the present, it is in the science fiction genre.
Prenna and her people are from the future. They migrated back, fleeing from horrible conditions in our future, including a starving planet and a virulent disease called the blood plague that kills virtually everyone who is exposed to it. Prenna and her mother live with the others who came with them, and although they interact with “time natives,” they must obey stringent rules about staying uninvolved with them. Prenna finds this irksome and is aware of people being sent away for innocent mistakes.
Although she flies below the radar at school, Prenna has one friend, Ethan, who behaves sometimes as if he knows something about her. He does. She does not remember, but he witnessed her arrival a few years before. Prenna likes Ethan, but she is forced to keep their friendship on a superficial level.
Prenna’s contact with a homeless man sets up an unexpected chain of events. While trying to discover the cause of the man’s death, she and Ethan begin to believe they can change the course of the future by preventing one act.
I have written before about some characteristics of much young adult/teen fiction that I find annoying. One is a certain style of first-person narration that sounds too much like an adult trying to sound like a teen. It is used in this novel, only it is made worse by the preponderance of choppy sentences, especially in the dialogue. If Brashares believes teens can’t think and talk in complex sentences, she should read the dialogue in The Fault in Our Stars (which admittedly may be too sophisticated but strikes me as authentic). This tendency is worsened by the use of the present tense, almost always a poor choice for fiction.
But let’s look at the plot and characters, since those are what teens will think about. The only characters who are more than moderately developed are Prenna and Ethan. Brashares makes the mistake of believing we will automatically care about Prenna before we really get to know her. As for the other characters, Prenna’s mother is a total enigma who won’t even eat dinner with her daughter, although that is never explained. The other adults in Prenna’s group are basically cartoon villains.
Whether you can enjoy the plot depends on how much you can suspend your disbelief. I will just point out two things, as vaguely as possible. The first is the unlikelihood of Patient #1 of the blood plague being the same person whose totally separate act causes potential massive efforts to stop the horrible effects of global warming to be stillborn. (And by the way, I didn’t really appreciate the lecture about global warming that suddenly pops into the dialogue.) The second is the completely unbelievable results of Prenna and Ethan’s adventure.
I frankly had a very difficult time getting through this short novel. Teens may enjoy it, but I did not.