Quicklit review: The Here and Now, by Ann Brashares

Brashares Here and NowIn her latest novel, The Here and Now, Ann Brashares offers a new twist on a familiar trope. Prenna, along with her mother and friends live closed off from the world of the early 21st century. Having  traveled back from a post-plague, climate-ravaged future, they intend merely to live out the remainder of their lonely lives in peace. No one can know who they are, or from where they have come. There’s just one problem, someone —Ethan Jarves, the sweet and gentle boy in the school Prenna has enrolled in– saw them arrive. Now as she struggles to understand what the homeless man Ethan has befriended has to do with her community’s safety, she and Ethan must struggle against time to prevent the disaster that sent time spiralling down the wrong path in order to create a better, safer future.

Once again, Brashares offers keen awareness of young adults as her characters grope through the darkness dealing with unfamiliar emotions and situations, navigating first love and the loss of loved ones. The situation she creates, hovers on edge of science fiction– the reader will find no long-winded explanations of the possibilities of time travel here– and offers just enough mystery and tension to keep the reader guessing about how/if the star-crossed “lovers” will find a life together.

Although the story starts off slowly, (Brashares includes just a bit of overt moralizing about how the “time natives” of 2014 could knowingly ignore the science that proves humanity is on a crash course with climate disaster) and Prenna’s marose initial personality put me off at first, Brashares ably overcomes those slight weaknesses by the end. When Prenna finally acts she proves herself to be a worthy heroine, leading the reader through an emotional journey from despair toward hope.

Well worth recommending to readers 12 and up.

Sexual content = 1/2 S  — mildly open discussions about sex.

Violence = V several violent deaths.

Questionable behavior = 0

 

In Darkness, by Nick Lake – For Goodness Sake, Read this book.

2013-02-10 09.05.14Few books stick with me like this one did  — not surprising considering it is the 2013 Printz winner.

Fifteen-year-old Shorty, begins his tale immediately following the 2010 earthquake that devastated Haiti. Buried in the rubble of the hospital, recuperating from wounds he suffered in the ubiquitous gang violence that is Haiti, Shorty recounts the story of how he got there. In the darkness of his living tomb, he begins to hallucinate, and in his ravings, he begins to remember events in someone else’s life: that of Toussaint L’Overture, the legendary liberator of Haiti from French domination in the 18th century.

In chapters that alternate between “Then” and “Now”, Lake recounts the lives of both Shorty and Toussaint moving between the Republic’s hopeful birth in a slave revolt, to the tragedy that is modern Haiti. Lake vividly evokes the horror of events on the island by pulling no punches, laying bare the raw facts of the Toussaint’s life in slavery and the slave revolt, grounding the story in rich sensory details: the sticky heat, the smell of blood, the sound a machete makes when it severs a limb.  The reader cannot look away, as he reveals the face of a dying baby, the effect of bullets on the human body, and the mystery of Voodoo. In addition, Lake explores the precariousness of life, and the power of love.

This is not a book for the faint of heart, but although the violence, despair and pain spring genuinely from the story’s roots Lake offers hope, as well; hope grounded in the love of a mother for her son, a brother for his sister, friends for each other, and a leader for his nation. This book will leave you wrung out, but thankful for the truths it reveals.

Sexual material – S

Violence – VVV

Questionable Behavior -??