The Future of Us, by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler (Razorbill, 2011, YA, 356 pages).
Back in 1996, Emma gets her first computer and an America Online CD-ROM. She goes on-line...and finds her Facebook account from fifteen years in the future. Suddenly she has a window on what life has in store for her--who her friends will be, where she'll live, and who she'll marry. And her first reaction is to share this strange and mysterious phenomenon with her childhood best friend, Josh.
But a while back, Josh had shown Emma that he wanted to be more than friends, and things grew strange between them. His facebook page is right there online too--showing him an alternative to Emma he'd never considered.
Now Josh and Emma find themselves in a dance with their futures. Every small choice they make in the present changes their facebook lives...and Emma, in particular, is determined to try to improve what she sees on the screen. And their choices not only effect their future selves, but their relationship in the present.
It's a fascinating premise! Facebook, as Emma finds, is a strange thing, with its members' lives shown in short sentences, full of subtext; with old friends appearing to comment, or, sometimes, not being on your list of friends at all. Flipping between the viewpoints of Josh and Emma, the reader watches the ripple effects of decisions the protaganists make in the present...and the ramifications of how all of this effects their real lives in the here and now.
It was gripping reading, full of food for thought for the modern user of social media (perhaps especially the historical fiction of it all, in as much as it takes the reader back to the time when the brave new world of the Internet was still young....).
The premise, and the rather voyeuristic pleasure I took in exploring Emma's future selves along with her, were the best part of the of the book. The present day story line was less engrossing for me because I never found Emma all that likeable. She is certainly a believable character, busily experimenting with relationships, and learning, the hard way, the difference between attraction and friendship, but she has a lot of growing up to do! Which is one of the points of the book, but still, I wanted to shake her on at least one occasion. Josh, on the other hand, is a sweetheart, and I hope Emma keeps growing up enough to be worthy of him....
I found it interesting to see the paradox of time travel played out in this way--generally, people in time travel books worry about traveling backwards, and effecting the present in unintended ways. Because their futures haven't, of course, happened, Emma and Josh can play with tweaking future events to their hearts content, without worrying about creating circumstances in which they were never born!
I myself have no desire to take a look at my facebook page fifteen years hence. I found it rather poignant, in a somewhat disturbing way, to see the future children of Josh and Emma drifting in and out of existence, and I wouldn't want to see that happen to my unborn grandchildren (Gah. A scary thought).