April 23rd just came and went. Now, for me that didn’t mean a whole lot – soccer practice for one kid, baseball for the other, baked haddock for dinner in-between.
For Prenna James, however, April 23rd is a very special anniversary. It marks the date she and her Postremo community traveled back from the year 2098 to 2010 in an effort to fix whatever it is that goes wrong in the time between that unleashes plagues unto the future.
The Here and Now begins in 2014, with Prenna having had 4 years to adjust to her new time. And adjust and learn to blend, she has, heavily incentivized by the knowledge of the fate that will befall her at the hand of her groups’ leaders if she does not. We learn their strict code of conduct as recited by Prenna’s peers at the annual “anniversary ceremony,” which is not only a quite un-joyous occasion, but it’s not even followed by a celebratory meal! Prenna and her friends are on their own to grab dinner from a nearby Chipotle – again, normalcy by necessity.
But Prenna does remember a different sort of normal – she even describes this solemn anniversary as kind of like our Thanksgiving, but without the turkey and pumpkin pie. So we do know that some holiday foods remain traditional in the future from which she has escaped. Can we then assume all food in 2098 is essentially the same as we know it now? Because this story is told in Prenna’s current present, we know that take-out fried chicken with coleslaw is a common dinner for her and her mother. What we do not know is if that’s the result of the 4-year adjustment, or if such a period was never required culinary-wise.
So the scene I most want to see, of course, is Prenna’s first food experience on the 2010 side of the time-travel path, but chronologically that time has already passed. Or has it?
This is when Brashares shouts, “But wait!”* Because she’s found a way to show me what I crave. J By shuffling in short letters from Prenna to her deceased future brother that date back to that April 23rd arrival, Brashares is indeed able to share glimpses of that 4-year gap, including a first taste:
I ate a mango. It’s a sticky orange fruit, sweet and sour, and it comes apart in threads, with a hard little skull in the middle of it. It is so good. Even better than pineapple. I think I would eat it even if you told me it was deadly poisonous.
Now I know one vital (to me, anyway) fact – there are pineapples in 2098, but not mangoes. And why is that? Is there something inherently different in the two plants? Or in the climes in which each grows? Does it have anything to do with our current era’s mass canning of pineapples but not mangoes? So that, in the bleak future that Prenna has seen, the only surviving fruits are preserved ones?
One short paragraph – one bite of fruit – leads to so many questions; imagine what the other 200+ pages stir up!
But before you start reading, you might want to go pick up some mango…while you still can. ;)
* Or But WATE, if you will. ;)