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24 November 2013 THE HERE AND NOW by Ann Brashares, Delacorte, April 2014, 256p., ISBN: 978-0-385-73680-0 


If you could have one shot at traveling back in time, where would you go?  If you had the audacity to try to change history, what is it that you would try to do?


"I start to stand up, but he reaches for my hand.  'Prenna, please.  Only another minute.  It may be important.  There is a single act, a murder, that will change the course of history, and it must be stopped.  I don't want to give you any more details if I don't need to.'

"The more he talks, the more I feel like I know him.  But he's not part of our community.  He can't be.  His voice digs at my memory.  I must have known him from my old life.  A friend from my grandmother Tiny's time or maybe an older colleague of one of my parents.  I am too panicked to slow my brain down and figure it out.

"I picture Mr. Robert.  I've got to calm down.  I need to play this off.  I need to hide my fear.  I can't let the old man know any of this is happening to me.

"'This man who commits this murder.  He told me about it before he died.  He was very sick, and he wasn't speaking clearly.  But I am sure of the date.  I am sure it is the fork, and he knew it too.  If we miss it, it's too late.  There's no going back.'

"'Well,' I clear my throat.  I take a breath.  I try to sound calm, even patronizing.  He is crazy, after all.  'If the guy died, you don't have to worry about him murdering anybody.'

"'He's not dead yet,' the old man says, almost impatiently.  'That doesn't happen for another sixty years.'

"I feel a new kind of anxiety start at the bottoms of my feet.  Who is he?  Where is he from?  How does he know these things?  Why is he telling this to me?"


Four years ago, Prenna and the rest of her "community" traveled from a dying human civilization at the end of the twenty-first century backward to 2010.  What she doesn't remember from her "immigration" is that when she made her sudden appearance in 2010, alone, without clothes, along a creek, a boy her age who happened to be fishing along that creek gave her his blue New York Giants sweatshirt to wear and pointed her toward the bridge she asked him about. 


That boy, Ethan, who watched the air ripple and splinter and eventually spit out a naked girl, spends the next two and a half years contemplating that experience until, on the first day of his sophomore year of high school, that very same girl sits down behind him in his precalculus class. 


What Prenna does recall very well is the date that the old man speaks of.  When she arrived in 2010, five numbers were scribbled magic marker-like on her arm.  Those numbers -- 51714 -- represent the date that the murder will take place.  Ethan saw them on her arm, and remembers those numbers, too. 


Like the other members of her time-traveling community, Prenna is required to follow strict dictates about fitting into the current time and culture without making any kind of significant connections with the "time natives."  She knows that the leaders of the community are engaging in ongoing surveillance of community members and understands that not following the rules could turn out to be a fatal mistake.  So what will she do when what the old man later tells her runs totally counter to all the rules and what she's been indoctrinated to believe?


HERE AND NOW, Prenna and Ethan's story, is a mind-blowing sci-fi romantic thriller about escape from a dystopian future whose seeds have already been sown and are well-known to anyone paying attention in 2013.  It repeatedly caused me "What if?" thoughts, as our young heroes seek the key to changing the future.  And, of course, the question is: Can and will they have a future together? 


So to what year in the past would I travel, and what would I try to change?  I'm going with the evidence right under my nose.  The bookmark I've been using is decorated with rows of varying colored peace signs surrounding the word "IMAGINE."  I'd be wanting to stop a murder, too. 


Richie Partington, MLIS
Richie's Picks http://richiespicks.com
Moderator http://groups.yahoo.com/group/middle_school_lit/


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