The Oracular Beard With Jared Conti

By Jared Conti in Arts & Entertainment

May 3, 2012

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Future Histories

Who knows what the future may hold. This being the last installment of The Beard (for the summer, at any rate) I’ve decided to take a trip down memory lane with Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler’s newest joint effort The Future of Us.

I hope a lot of you are coming back in the fall to our little burgh, though we’re little enough that some of you may be transferring out back home. I have a friend that’s striking out to find his fortune. Even still, there are the folks taking the plunge into—gulp—graduation, and the REAL WORLD. Sometimes, however, it’s hard to tell the difference between what’s real and what’s not.

Our story starts off with the disclaimer that in 1996 less than half of all high school students had used the internet. This brings me back a bit, but only because I graduated that year. Please, for all of our sakes, don’t do the math.

Enter Josh, high school junior and former best friend of senior Emma. They still remain friendly, but you find out the reason for the distance between the two is because Josh acted of feelings that Emma didn’t reciprocate.  After finding out Emma has received a new computer and Josh stops in with a new AOL CD for her to try things out, with probably a ga-jillion free hours.

If you remember or heard old wives’ tales, they used to send you these CD-Roms in the mail from America Online. Things were hip back then, and you could access the internet through your desktop computer. Through AOL, you could “chat” but that and the closest thing to Facebook was whatever randomness you could plug into the “About Me” section of your profile. Yet, this is just the beginning of where things get a little hinky for our characters.

You see, after hearing that annoying dial-up sound and the electronic voice chanting “Welcome,” the screen freezes—and opens onto one from fifteen years in the future. Something strange is happening, and the allure of Facebook stares dully back from the screen. Though neither teen knows what Facebook is, they quickly conclude their lives are much different in the future than in the present. Josh is perfectly content with Top 10 drop dead gorgeous Sydney as a future wife to their beautiful twin boys. Whereas Emma, however, freaks out just a tad when she sees her relationship with Jordan Jones Jr. has hit a bit of a snag. Their relationship status reads “It’s Complicated,” but this is true on the deepest of levels.

Drama ensues as the two continually peruse the site as interactions and decisions made in the present seriously affect the future. Emma makes a habit of pushing her luck with guys she finds interesting at school, as if any one of these eligible bachelors are “the one.” Joshua, on the other hand begins his flirting with the untouchable Sydney, possibly ruining his chances for what may or may not be.

Though I expected more, authors Asher and Mackler handle the drama deftly as the novel’s assemblage of chapters stagger with points of view between the two. Things that I thought were going to happen did not, though I see my interpretations as wish fulfillment that like Josh and Emma, never seem to be realized. There’s that gut-wrenching feeling one gets when hoping the two of them get together, hoping beyond hope that just like your high school crush, the truth is realized in the present, instead of the future.

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