This collaboration by two successful authors is intriguing and frustrating in equal measure. The premise is novel – it is 1996 and Josh’s family receive a free AOL CD which is donated to Josh’s lifelong friend Emma, since she has a computer and Jay does not. When it is installed, the two friends discover their profiles on Facebook – which will not be invented until 2004 – and they find that they are looking at themselves 15 years in the future.
The scope for storylines is huge and exciting – and, indeed, there is a good deal of tension in this novel. However, much of it is generated by the aftermath of Josh’s failed attempt, months earlier, to kiss Emma and so transform their friendship into a romance. Emma becomes obsessed with who is to become her future husband and what their life together will be like, taking reckless steps to alter the course of the future until she is satisfied with the result of her manipulations and complaining constantly if she does not like the outcome of her schemes.
Asher and Mackler could have done so much more here, yet instead they chose to focus on Emma’s dangerously self-obsessed search and her ceaseless preoccupation with the physical attributes of the young men who stray into her life. Josh – though not without his own obsession – is a far more centered character who could have played a more influential and less helpless role in the narrative.
The fluctuating relationship between these two protagonists is undoubtedly of interest – this is a fast, punchy read which effortlessly pulls the reader along. This collaboration has mastered pace but opportunities are too often missed to make more than shadowplay for Emma’s decidedly two-dimensional character.