Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Glory O'Brien's History of the Future (a book review)

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

Released: October 14, 2014
Publisher: Little, Brown
Pages: 308

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. 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 anything to make sure this one doesn’t come to pass.

Buy a SIGNED COPY at Aaron's Books

My family and I went to the release party for Glory O'Brien at our local bookstore, so we actually have a signed and personalized copy of the book! (And the signature is in a super cool silver marker, since it's the only thing that shows up on the black background.) I've read Reality Boy and Please Ignore Vera Dietz both by A.S. King, but this one is by far my favorite.

In a nutshell, Glory O'Brien's History of the Future is about a girl named Glory whose best friend Ellie convinces her to drink a mixture of petrified bat and beer with her. Then they both start to see visions of the future, a terrible one that shows proof of a second world war and the loss of women's rights. Or it's about feminism, what it means to be a friend, and living a full life. You choose.

The book hooked me right away. Drinking a bat? That's not something you read about every day. Or ever. I learned at the release party that the idea from the book actually came from a piece of freewriting A.S. King wrote as an example for one of her lectures. The students at the lecture asked what happened next, and they all begged her to write more so they could know what happened. I'm really glad she did, because I couldn't stop reading.

I also loved the writing style. The first person narrative was comfortable and familiar, almost like you were having a casual conversation with a friend.

Glory and her mother Darla are (or were) both photographers. I loved reading about it all, because even though I'm an average photographer at best, I love seeing the creativity put into pictures of all kinds. Pinterest can be a huge time suck for me, because I'll just sit at my computer and scroll through different boards for inspiration.

But more than anything, I loved the characters. Not because they were particularly likeable--they weren't--but because they made me think. Normally unlikeable characters are a huge turnoff for me, but these characters weren't supposed to be likeable. They were conflicted.

I did like Glory, for the most part. She didn't do anything wrong or really mean like some of the other characters did. I mostly felt sorry for her. She had to go through some real crap--Darla's suicide--and her dad won't talk about it with her, so she has to find things out on her own from Darla's sketchbooks she finds in their darkroom.

I also felt sorry for Glory's dad. He was a painter, but hadn't painted since Darla's death. Instead, he spent all day on the couch in front of his computer for a sucky job. He doesn't go out much. But he and Glory do have a good relationship, minus the not talking about what happened part.

I'm unsure about my feelings on Ellie, though. Sometimes she and Glory seem like really good friends, like at the beginning, and other times I can't stand her because the friendship was one-sided. Ellie seemed lost to me. She didn't know what she was doing with her life and was living in a hippie commune on Glory's land. Her mother Jasmine Blue was very controlling and believed in living off of the land rather than paying taxes and buying things like Doritos or medicine. Sometimes Glory would sneak things like that to Ellie when Jasmine Blue wasn't looking, which reminded me of when Rory in "Gilmore Girls" would sneak Lane junk food when Mrs. Kim wasn't looking.

The only characters I hated were Rick (because he was a disgusting pig) and Jasmine Blue (for similar reasons that I won't give away here).

(A slightly random note: Glory briefly mentions a classmate in her high school named Gerald, the main character from Reality Boy! I love it when authors take characters from one book and put them into another.)

To sum up, Glory O'Brien's History of the Future is fantastic. It's unique, interesting the entire time, and makes you think. I'd recommend it to fans of A.S. King's previous work, anyone looking for a contemporary with a paranormal twist, and a small cast of interesting characters.

Meet the author:

A.S. King is best known for her award-winning young adult novels, though she writes novel-length and short fiction for adults as well. After more than a decade in Ireland dividing herself between self-sufficiency, restoring her farm, teaching adult literacy, and writing novels, she returned to the US in 2004. Amy now lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and children, teaches  writing at Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA program, and is a huge fan of Kurt Vonnegut, corn on the cob, libraries, and roller skating.

Connect with A.S. King:
Twitter: @AS_King
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/as.king.author

Have you read Glory O'Brien's History of the Future? What did you think? Leave a comment!


Taylor Lynn said...

Ooh, I read this! And I also got to meet the author in Boston last fall, which was super cool, so I have a signed copy too (also in shiny silvery marker, haha). It's definitely a unique concept for a story, one that makes it hard to place in a specific genre--is it contemporary? Fantasy? Dystopia? WHO KNOWS? But the weirdness is part of what makes it such an intriguing idea. And I know what you mean about Glory and her dad--I love that they actually seem to have a good relationship! Positive parent-child relationships are something I've always wanted to see more of in YA fiction and I'm so glad that they seem to be becoming more commonplace. :) Also, I didn't read Reality Boy so I didn't catch the reference, but I love when authors do that--it's so fun for readers!

Anyway: Great review! I'm glad you enjoyed this book so much!

Dr. Mark said...

I love the review! I also love how excited you get about simple things like signatures in silver markers. Now that you're done maybe I'll get a chance to read it!

The Magic Violinist said...

@Taylor Lynn That's awesome! :)

Ha ha, I know. I couldn't figure out how to categorize it on Goodreads! I ended up putting it on my contemporary, paranormal, and young adult shelves. Guess that's the closest I'll get. :P

YES, me, too! I hate the parent-teen stereotypes in books and TV. The big YA authors right now are doing a good job of changing that.

Oh, you should definitely read Reality Boy! :) Funnily enough, A.S. King doesn't even watch TV, but she managed to write about it really well.

@Dr. Mark I'm easily excited. ;) It's on the shelf waiting to be read if you want to pick it up!

Boquinha said...

Fantastic review. I'm excited to read it! A.S. King is awesome - I love hearing her speak especially. Taylor, that's so cool you got to meet her - she's great, isn't she? She lives in a town not far from us and we get to see her now and then and it's such a treat!