Tough To Pin Down

The title of A.S. King’s book, Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future, with its inherent paradox, should suggest to you that this a book that will be difficult to categorize. And that’s true, but rather than turning out a muddled mess, this book is a powerful exploration of what it means to move through a liminal time in adolescence: graduations from high school.

In King’s book, Glory O’Brien is on the cusp of adulthood as she’s graduating from high school–but she’s at a loss as to what to do with her life. One night, she and a friend drink the dried remains of a bat and find themselves with the power to see the future. What Glory sees is reminiscent of dystopian works like Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, a world where a new civil war breaks out over the rights of women and their proper role in society. Glory decides to write the “history” of this war as she sees it revealed piece by piece in visions of the future she has while associating with people in her town.

These dystopian visions, however, are only a vehicle for King to explore more immediate issues that Glory faces: dealing with the loss of her mother, who committed suicide years earlier; the looming future that awaits her after high school; the tensions that arise in her immediate world between her feminist views and the beliefs and actions of those around her (including her best friend). This is a coming-of-age story, as should be no surprise to any readers of YA literature, but this one has something special. Glory is a compellingly drawn character whose voice is vibrant and engaging, and the way she navigates this critical time in her life (and the destination she reaches) make for a powerful read.

Throughout the book I couldn’t help but think of the kind of teen reader that this book would appeal to, and it strikes me that this might fit in that band of books for older young adults–those graduating or just graduated from high school (or those for whom that event is approaching). Glory’s concerns about the future and the changing nature of her relationship to her dad, her deceased mother, and the other adults in her community, all reflect concerns and issues of interest to this age group. I see this book as being classed with other “new adult” titles, although it’s less salacious and not as focused on certain topics (like sexual exploits) as many of those titles are. I’m hoping that we might see more books like this one that explore this transitional period from teenager to adult in complex ways.