Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Future Shock

Future Shock

Elizabeth Briggs
Fiction
For ages 13 and up
Albert Whitman, 2016   ISBN: 978-0807526828

For years Elena Martinez has moved from foster home to foster home. She has learned how to be a survivor, and she is determined that she is not going to waste her life. She wants to go to college and make something of herself, but in two months, when she is eighteen, she will age out of the foster care system and then she will be on her own. For weeks now she has been trying to get a job, any job, so that she will have a little money of her own before she has to leave her foster home, but no one wants to hire a young Latina who has no work experience.

One day, after yet another fruitless job interview, Elena is at her foster home when a woman comes to visit her. The woman, Lynne Marshall, works for Aether Corp, a tech company, and she wants Elena to be a part of a “short research project,” which will take place the next day at Aether Corp’s research facilities. In return for participating for only one day, Elena will be given enough money that she will have freedom, independence, and will be able to attend college. The money will mean that she will have a real future.

Though Elena is naturally suspicious of Aether Corp’s program, she decides to join anyway because the payout is just too big to turn down, and so, the next day, she is taken to the research facility, which is out in the desert. There she meets the other kids who have been recruited. In all there are four foster kids and Adam, a teen genius. Elena knows what she brings to the table – good grades and a deictic memory – and she knows what Adam has to offer, but she is not at all sure why tough Chris and Trent, and quiet little Zoe have been invited to join the program.

After going through a variety of medical tests, the teens finally find out what they are going to be asked to do. The scientists at Aether Corp have essentially built a time machine, and the five teens are going to be sent to a time ten years in the future. They will be there for only twenty-four hours, and during that time their mission is gather information about the technology of the future. Their various skills will help them to do this, and Elena now sees how her superb memory will be useful for such a task.

Accordingly, the young people enter the time machine and they then find themselves in the research facility of the future, except the room they arrive in is empty of equipment and people. Nobody is there waiting for them as expected, and when they explore the building it is clear that no one has been there for a while. When they look outside they see that the city has grown and the facility is no longer in the middle of nowhere. Furthermore, the cars of the future are self-propelled. From a bumper sticker they discover that they have travelled thirty years into the future and not ten.

Hoping that an honest mistake was made, the teens decide to follow through with their mission and they start trying to learn about the world that they have come to. They discover that paper money is no longer used, and when they try to buy something they have to pay using their fingerprint IDs and DNA scans, which are apparently linked to bank accounts in some way. The tone of their mission changes radically when they discover that the Chris, Trent, Zoe and Elena are not in the system. Adam is the only one who has an ID in the future, he is the only one who is alive in this time.

After getting in trouble and being pursued by the police, the tenns decide to visit Chris’ girlfriend. Elena and Adam ask her about Chris and finds out that Chris, and two other teens, were all killed by a girl on the same day. They were murdered! To find out more, the shocked teens go to the public library and Elena finds out that she is the one who did the shooting. She killed Chris, Trent and Zoe soon after they got back from their trip into the future, and she then killed herself. How is such a thing even possible? Why would she have done such a thing?

This gripping novel explores time travel in a very interesting and thought-provoking way. Just when readers think that they understand the situation, a new wrinkle is added to the plot, one that adds depth and complexity to the narrative.