The Birds, The Bees and The Mosquitoes

The Here and Now - Ann Brashares


So Al Gore decided to write a pre-apocalyptic, time-travel young adult romance…

In all honesty, I liked that this attempted to at least cut across a bigger message, one that’s worth writing about, sure. But if I’m going to read about a spineless, astigmatic time-traveler moon over a boy and his mad card-playing and science skillz, at least make me feel like there’s some subtext of purpose snuck in. So while this lacked a certain degree of subtlety in that aspect, I’d take the thinly-veiled hippie propaganda (which isn’t really that hard to get on board with) but leave out the romance, the efforts to Prenna a hero (because, no) and the implausible science.

Prenna travels back to 2010 with a community of time-travellers with the intent of altering certain pivotal events that would inevitably lead to the world’s demise. But the council has grown slack of this purpose and instead has contented themselves of blending with the natives, implementing rules that keeps them from interfering with history choosing instead to enjoy the time when the consequences have yet to exist. That’s until Prenna meets a mysterious homeless man and a boy who makes her want to break all the rules.

I actually like certain aspects of this story and I have a feeling I’d have enjoyed this story better if not for certain quirks in my personality.

People versus mosquito. Who should win? We built rockets and cathedrals. We wrote poems and symphonies. We found a passage through time. And yet. We also wreck the planet for our own habitation and the mosquito will win. Unless we succeed in changing course, it will win.

There's science behind the The thing is, I’m a Biology major. I don’t understand wormholes and quantum physics stuff but I kinda dug ecology back in college and microbiology is one of my favourite subjects in med school. So when I learned that Prenna, the heroine, is a time-traveler from 2090 when the world’s population has been decimated by a Dengue plague, I was a little curious how exactly this book will pull that off. Some basic facts:

Management of Dengue is by hydration and antipyretics. You CAN die of Dengue but only if you caught it in the late, hemorrhagic stages.

Transmission is NOT by contact or droplet but solely by a vector, a specific kind of mosquito. Which is why its highly endemic to the wet and humid parts of the globe.

I liked how this managed to portray and connect the vague concepts of climate change, human behaviour and current research practices and how these can potential impact a person in the most rudimentary level.

However this book took a lot of creative liberties in its attempt to become original in choosing a disease not as well- known or terrifying as, say smallpox, and painting an exaggerated and inaccurate picture of it. It just stretches the logic a bit too far for me. Of course, a wastebasket excuse would be, hey it’s a mutated strain! But anyone with a basic understanding of virology will probably laugh at the alternative “future” history this book managed to pull out of the proverbial hat.

Outside the shoddily devised science, the story relies heavily on the budding romance between Prenna and the token nerdy hero, Ethan, who met and fell in love with each other over a sweatshirt at first sight while freezing in a river.

She was the kind of girl he would dream up because she was approximately his age, her skin was bare except for the dark wet streamers of hair around her body, and she was supernaturally beautiful, like a mermaid or an elvish princess.

I don’t know, my first reaction when seeing someone appear out of thin air while I’m fishing alone in the middle of nowhere would probably go along the lines of freaking the hell out rather than my World of Warcraft fantasies. 

I quite liked the imagination of the future and wished more scenes were focused on explaining certain details rather than the effort to charm me with two extremely bland characters and their senseless name-callings and silly interludes of buying swimsuits and learning card games. It wouldn’t have worked in the proper circumstances but having these happen while they’re on their way to save the world from fucking itself up? It didn’t work and misplaced frivolities just annoys the hell out of me.

The climactic scenes failed to thrill, especially when the plot twist of Ethan being the evil time traveller didn’t happen. I initially looked at this story under a more forgiving light thinking its a debut novel, but seeing as it’s not just multiplied the disappointment exponentially.

ARC provided by the publishers in exchange for an honest review. Quotes may not appear in the final edition.