The Here and Now by Ann Brashares had the potential to be an epic time-travel thriller...but no

Author: Ann Brashares
Genre: Young Adult, Sci-fi
Publication: April 8th 2014, Hodder Children's Books
Pages: 303 Pages, Paperback
Source: Thank you to Netgalley for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review!
Rating: 3.5/5
TIME TRAVEL AND FORBIDDEN ROMANCE FROM THE BEST SELLING AUTHOR OF THE SISTERHOOD OF THE TRAVELLING PANTSThrilling, exhilarating, haunting and heartbreaking, The Here and Now is a twenty-first-century take of an impossible romance. There are rules.Never reveal where you’re from.Never be intimate with anyone outside the community.And never interfere with history. Seventeen-year-old Prenna James emigrated to New York when she was twelve. But Prenna didn't come from a different country, she came from a different time - a future where a mosquito-borne illness has mutated into a pandemic, killing millions and leaving the world in ruins. Prenna and the others who escaped to the present day must follow a strict set of rules. Prenna does as she's told, believing she can help prevent the plague that will one day ravage the earth and take the lives of her younger brothers. But everything changes when she falls for Ethan. She might be able to save the world ... if she lets go of the one thing she's found to hold on to.

The Here and Now is a book I requested awhile ago for reasons that have vanished in my vault of memories. Perhaps it was the gorgeous cover or the promise of a time-travel romance that spans generations, or perhaps it was because of Ann Brashares' name on the cover (I LOVED The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants). Either way, I'm glad I requested this book and finally read it as it was an addictive, fast-paced book that I definitely enjoyed, even if I was left disappointed with it.

The Here and Now is about a girl called Prenna who has immigrated to 2014/2015 from the future. Within the community of time-travellers, there are a strict set of rules that MUST be obeyed, those who don't obey disappear in the most mysterious of circumstances. There are twelve rules, the most important being don't let anyone know who you really are and where you're really from and most importantly: don't fall in love. Prenna is about to break all three these rules thanks to her classmate Ethan, a smart, kind boy in her class who has a love for quantum physics and possesses the ability to detect those who aren't from this world. As the tendrils of truth about Prenna's community begin to emerge and those close to Prenna begin to disappear, Ethan and Prenna realise they've stumbled onto a shocking truth. Time-travellers with dark motives on the loose, finding the cause of the future's destruction and terrifying secrets abound, Prenna and Ethan are in a race against time to save not only themselves – but also the future – from demise.

I was really hoping to love this book. I find the concept of time-travel so fascinating but unfortunately, whenever I read a book that features it I'm left disappointed. Although I enjoyed this book and read it in a couple of sittings, I didn't love it and I felt quite underwhelmed by my reading experience. There were some aspects I loved...and some I didn't, resulting in me having a lot of mixed emotions.

So, I loved the fast-paced nature of the book and the multiple twists, turns and thrills that appeared throughout. There were some parts of the book that had me drinking in the words as if they were a drug. I loved the time-travelling aspect and the creative, intriguing technology that was featured in The Here and Now. I think that despite the actual science behind time-travel being absent from this book, the author did a good job of visually creating an apocalyptic future of earth as well as detailing the lifestyle and technology of those living in the age Prenna migrated from. That, and the addictive nature of the book, is definitely what made The Here and Now so enjoyable. I also liked the overall message the book displayed – how it's our choices and decisions that create the future, how one choice, one death, one life has the potential to reconstruct the world. How even if we think we don't have much of an impact on the world, we do. Another thing I liked was the writing style which had a languid fluidity about it whilst still managing to seamlessly shape itself into a roaring fast-paced form to keep the reader on the tips of their toes. I do love the way Ann Brashares writes. One last thing I liked was the unconventional ending. It was slightly open and it didn't fall into the sugary sweet category that many endings fall into, coating the book with a touch of originality.

I liked the characters too. I didn't love them and this is where my problems with the book began. The characters were likable enough but they were extremely bland and vastly unmemorable. They didn't feel particularly real and perhaps it's because they never seemed to share parts of their soul with the reader, which I find essential for creating characters that feel like real flesh and blood. I don't know much about them except for the fact that Ethan likes physics. They didn't have much substance and they didn't share their thoughts or feelings with the reader which resulted in flat, cardboard cut-out characters.

This leads onto the second thing that rapidly decreased my enjoyment levels whilst reading The Here and Now: the romance. As I said, none of the characters felt real and I didn't ever feel connected to them, so when you take two characters that are two-dimensional and put them together, the romance is devoid of any depth. The romance felt kind of insta-lovey even though Ethan and Prenna have known each other for several years. They didn't seem to have any real connection and there was just nothing to base their relationship on. There wasn't much-spoken interaction between them before they were suddenly attracted to each other and became a Thing. There was a lot of telling and not a lot of showing, I guess you could say. But then again it's not even that, as there is physical touching that indicates that they're interested in one another – the romance just felt so empty and like there was no substance. I'm a reader that needs characters to be three-dimensional and I need romance that I can feel and believe in...The Here and Now had neither of these things and that's why I didn't love it as much as I was hoping to.

The Here and Now is a fast-paced time travel thriller with conspiracy and murder laced through its pages and it is an addictive read that had me speeding through the pages, however, the lack of character depth and the insubstantial romance left a large void in the book that had me feeling severely underwhelmed. I enjoyed the themes that were explored within the book: how it's our choices that shape the future and how our individual lives have an immense impact on not only the present but also the future. Overall, it is a worthwhile read and one that you'll probably be unable to put down, but if you're looking for a book rife with incandescent characters and breathtaking romance, this book might not be for you.

I give it: 3.5 cupcakes