Thursday, December 4, 2014

Glory O'Brien's History of the Future

Glory O'Brien's History of the Future by A.S. King (2014)

When Glory was only 4 years old, her mother committed suicide by putting her head in an oven. Now Glory and her father microwave all their meals. Across the street is a commune run by a woman named Jasmine Blue Heffner, a friend of Glory's mother, and her daughter Ellie is Glory's best friend. She's actually Glory's only friend and Glory is honestly getting tired of her. Ellie is very self-centered and primarily uses Glory as transportation and as a purchaser of lice medication. Soon after the story opens Glory and Ellie drink a petrified bat, and it gives them the power to see everyone's past and future. Glory begins documenting the future she sees, hoping that it won't actually come true.

That is kind of a weird premise, right? A.S. King generally interjects some sort of weirdness into her books (kind of like Andrew Smith) and it always works (also like Andrew Smith). Many of King's books read light and funny even if they're about serious subjects, but this isn't one of them. This one is fairly dark and reminds me more of Everybody Sees the Ants than any of her others. But although it's not humorous, it's still clever.

What I love most about Glory is that she's so matter-of-fact and she doesn't kid herself, but she is also a very considerate person. She knows she doesn't want to be friends with Ellie anymore, but she will do things like give her a hug because she needs a hug. Her strong sense of self comes through especially well in her conversations with Ellie. At one point when Ellie doesn't want to appear emotional because boys don't like emotional girls, Glory asks "Anyway, who cares what guys like? They don't do stuff because of what we like, right?" That is exactly the attitude that I love, and Glory displays it throughout the novel.

Aside from Glory herself, there are some very cool elements to this story. First, though much of it is centered around her mother's suicide, it isn't an issue novel. Glory's feelings about her mother's death and fear for her own future feel genuine in their complexity. Like her mother, Glory is really into photography, and I really liked how she used photographic principles to relate to other areas in her life.

The future story told through Glory's visions is probably the coolest/scariest part of all. Without giving away too much, it is dystopic in a way that is similar to certain elements of The Handmaid's Tale, and has the same sort of scary believability. I actually kind of want it to be a real book. (Note to A.S. King: please write this.)

As I was reading, I thought this book was pretty dark, but ultimately it left me feeling hopeful for Glory and her future. A.S. King manages to make all her books very different from each other, but equally sophisticated and surprising and awesome. Another winner from one of my favorite young adult authors!

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