Ann Brashares' The here and now is a book that came to me a bit sneakily; first, it was suggested for me by means of a "what to read next?"-quiz on BookRiot. So I read about it, and thought "Huh, that's nice", and would have forgotten, if it hadn't reappeared where I could ask for a review copy. I did, and now I've read it, which didn't take long, but was definitely pleasant.
I tend to avoid YA with heavy romance plots, possibly because I'm an old grinch; Mostly because I just can't suspend disbelief enough to go along with some of the more unbearable Soulmates-at-first-sight stuff. This could have been a problem in reading this book - but it wasn't. The author handles the emotional parts of the plot elegantly, keeping it somewhat subdued, though it is certainly there.
Subdued is an appropriate description of the whole novel; The story unfolds quietly, subtly, in a way that deceptively makes it feel slow and languid - even though the pages turn rapidly. I enjoy this narration style, it allows for dramatic events but without waving all its sharp edges and fists directly at the reader. Some will inevitably find it boring, of course.
Prenna James is an immigrant, living in a sheltered community of fellow immigrants, in New York. Her interaction with the outside world is shy and tentative - she's been warned against it. Never let anyone get close, never let an outsider know you. Don't get involved. There are rules, several strict rules, and Prenna knows how important they are - and yet, she's going to break just about all of them.
Because she never wants to go back to where she and the others came from. When they came from. The future they travelled from was a broken one, all horror and blood plagues, and this place - this time - it is a paradise, by comparison. You'd think 2010 had no idea what was coming. But it does, Prenna realises; They do know what they're doing to the planet, and yet it continues. The rules are strict about staying away, but she has to change things. Doesn't she?
Ethan agrees. He's been watching Prenna literally since the day she arrived in his time; She can't remember it, but he was there right at the start. He was there when she walked into his classroom, later on. He knows, all the things he's not supposed to know according to the rules, and the rules say he should hate and vilify her and the other time travellers, but he doesn't. He really doesn't.
I'd call this dystopia-adjacent - the nightmare future is there, lurking in the background, but there is hope. There is a chance it can be changed. If only they change the right things...
Who would I recommend this to? People looking for YA science fiction exploring other tropes than just dystopia, perhaps - here's time travel and a bit of medicine mixed in. And if you just want a quiet book that won't shout itself at you - which is a completely valid thing to want from a book - this is a decent choice, and it won't occupy much more than an afternoon.
However, if you know yourself to be quickly bored by the kind of quiet atmosphere and downplayed action I've described, then, of course, read something else. This doesn't have people jumping onto trains in motion or whatever. The fate of the world is at stake, but without explosions.
(And, of course do not read it if you're obsessive-crazy about time travel in a way that makes it hard for you to enjoy a narrative that doesn't go all hard science about it. Go watch Primer. But for what it's worth, this novel annoyed me a lot less than The time traveller's wife.)