Tuesday, October 7, 2014

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

Young Adult, Contemporary, Magical Realism, Science Fiction
Publication.Date  October 14th 2014
Published By:  Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
AuthorA.S. King

Glory O'Brien's History of the Future on Goodreads
My review copy:Received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Where to get:


Graduating from high school is a time of limitless possibilities—but not for Glory, who has no plan for what's next. Her mother committed suicide when Glory was only four years old, and she’s never stopped wondering if she will eventually go the same way...until a transformative night when she begins to experience an astonishing new power to see a person’s infinite past and future. From ancient ancestors to many generations forward, Glory is bombarded with visions—and what she sees ahead of her is terrifying.

A tyrannical new leader raises an army. Women’s rights disappear. A violent second civil war breaks out. And young girls vanish daily, sold off or interned in camps. Glory makes it her mission to record everything she sees, hoping her notes will somehow make a difference. She may not see a future for herself, but she’ll do everything in her power to make sure this one doesn’t come to pass.

In this masterpiece about freedom, feminism, and destiny, Printz Honor author A.S. King tells the epic story of a girl coping with devastating loss at long last—a girl who has no idea that the future needs her, and that the present needs her even more.


School is the same as anything else. You do it because you're told to do it when you're young enough to listen. You continue because someone told you it was important. It's like you're a train in a tunnel. Graduation is the light at the end.
Ellie's mother didn't believe in cleaning.
My mother was dead, and I had no idea if she was ever a clean freak or what.
But Ellie was... Ellie. Ever since we were little, she'd change the rules of a game halfway through.
You didn't tell your biggest secrets to someone like that, right?
Anyway. I had a week until I graduated. I had zero plans, zero options, zero friends.
But I didn't tell Ellie that either because she thought she was my best friend.

It would always be complicated.
Regardless, having a dead mother isn't convenient, especially when she died because she stuck her head in an oven and turned on the gas.
That is not convenient.
Although, I'd argue that there is some convenience in having a death machine right there in your kitchen waiting for the moment you finally get the nerve to do it. I'd argue that's more convenient than a fast-food drive thru. You don't even have to leave your house to stick your head in the oven.
You don't even have to change out of your bathrobe.
You don't even have to take your kid to preschool where it was Letter N Day and she was ready to show off her acorn collection. You don't have to remember to do anything but breathe in and breathe out.
That's about as convenient as it gets.
What's inconvenient is: Living in a world where no one wants to talk to you about your dead mother it makes them uncomfortable.

     Glory O'Brien's History of the Future is dark, surreal and poignant. Written in a fluid and compelling style, it's really quite a literary masterpiece that further solidifies my love and admiration for A.S. King and her prose. To me, this book is perfect

     Glory O'Brien is quite a mess. She's about to graduate from high school and she has literally no idea what to do with her life ("I had a week until I graduated. I had zero plans, zero options, zero friends.") Her mother checked out on her family when Glory was just a little girl. ("My mother wasn't conveniently dead, like in so many stories about children, whether they jarred dead bats or were attracted to beasts in woodland castles. She didn't die to help me overcome some obstacles by myself or to make me a more sympathetic character.") She was depressed, she couldn't handle life anymore, and so she stuck her head in the oven and flipped the metaphorical switch. Damaging as it must have been to a little girl's psyche, Glory is not a complete freak. She's just perceived as one by others, who assume there must be something wrong with her, considering. And sometimes it's just easier to roll with it. 

   Her life tastes like radiation, because after her mom's death her dad got rid of the oven and now all they ever eat goes through the microwave. She has one friend that she doesn't even consider a real friend. Ellie is just.. well, Ellie. She's someone Glory is stuck with, someone who lives across the street and has always been there, though only in a purely physical sense. ("Was everyone stuck with geographical friends like this? Longitude-and-latitude friends?"). She loves photography, just like her mother did, and takes pictures of just about anything she finds interesting. And she gives them titles. 

    One day, Glory and Ellie discover a mummified (petrified?) bat, and they decide it's God. They stuck him in a jar, and eventually, this happens:

"So we drank it - the two of us.Ellie drank it first and acted like it tasted good. I followed. And it wasn't half bad.
When we woke up the next morning, everything was different. We could see the future. We could see the past. We could see everything."

You might say,"Why did you drink a bat?" Or, "Who would do that?"
But we weren't thinking about it at the time. It's like being on a fast train that crashes and someone asking you why you didn't jump before it crashed.
You wouldn't jump because you couldn't jump. It was going to fast.
And you didn't know the crash was coming, so why would you?"

     From that point on, both girls can see snippets of people's pasts and futures. Their visions are really quite random, but what they reveal about the future is really quite shocking. The question is, what will they do with their knowledge? 

     Undeniably, this book is a retreat from the real world; an engaging, dangerously powerful and completely original vision of both the future and the past, with an insightful look at the present. Reading this book was a joy. And a joy that cannot be eclipsed. I can see myself reaching for it time and time again, if not to re-read the entire thing, then at least to savor the highlighted passages. The brilliant and memorable thoughts and observations. They're resonating deep within, and the aftertaste they leave is 60% fascination and 40% satisfaction. 

     Bottom line is: Glory O'Brien's History of the Future is a rare treat among YA literature, and one absolutely not to be missed. It's a smart, sharp, deftly written tale and it's filled with existential themes, dark humor, emotional resonance and artistry. You really don't want to skip this one.

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