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Monday, December 8, 2014

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


From the BLURB:

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.

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.

‘Glory O'Brien's History of the Future’ is the new contemporary YA novel from A.S. King.

I’ve been sitting on this review for a while. I was actually gifted an advance copy of this book from my friend Persnickety Snark, who attended Book Expo America earlier in the year – she nabbed me a copy, and had a chat with the King herself, who she said was absolutely lovely!

So I read the book way back before its October release. I’ve since re-read it a couple of times … and tried writing a review a half dozen times … and the most sincere statement I can come up with to summarise is: “fuck, it’s good.”

But I’m going to try to be more eloquent than that, because this book deserves eloquence. And I’m posting this as my last review for the year (favourites list and ‘most anticipated’ list forthcoming!) – because I like the idea of ending the year with this review, of this book – it’s going to be a bit like sending an “Amen!” into the universe.

This is a book about what happens when a young, motherless girl gains the power of hindsight and foresight – and what she does when the future she sees coming for us is one in which Women’s rights disappear.

Our protagonist is Glory, a girl whose mother stuck her head in the oven when Glory was little and she’s been haunted by her death ever since – it’s something she tries to figure out through photography, a hobby she shares with her mother. When we meet her, Glory is about to graduate high school and possibly sever ties with her best-frenemy Ellie Heffner. When the girls drink the blood of a petrified bat – in a show of BFF solidarity – the repercussions are cosmic and terrifying, granting Glory a peek into everyone’s past and future … a future that includes a civil war sparked by a governmental agenda of misogyny and tyranny.

Does this sound like part contemporary YA, part feminist manifesto? It does? Good. Because it kinda is – a feminist manifesto wrapped in the vastness of time and space, dipped in subversive YA fiction. In other words: it’s freakin’ glorious!

I am tortured too. I am tortured by belly fat and magazine covers about how to please everyone but myself. I am tortured by sheep who click on anything that will guarantee a ten-pound loss in one week. Sheep who will get on their knees if it means someone will like them more. I am tortured by my inability to want to hang out with desperate sheep. I am tortured by goddamned yearbooks full of bullshit. I met you when. I’ll miss the times. I’ll keep in touch. Best friends forever. Is this okay? Are you all right? Are you tortured too? 
Last year I would have said that King’s ‘Reality Boy’ was her most ambitious novel to date … then again, the year before that I probably would have said that ‘Ask thePassengers’ was her most shattering literary statement yet … and so on and so forth but the truth is that A.S. King keeps getting better and bolder with each new book. She’s one of the most important voices writing in YA fiction today for the very reason that she’s constantly testing boundaries and pushing readers out of comfort zones. A.S. King writes without limit

And in a year that saw feminist critic Anita Sarkeesian threatened with death and massacre if she dared lecture at a university  … when just this month a woman was beaten to death for trying to save two girls from a group of men who were harassing them … actor Bill Cosby is only now being scrutinised for rape allegations dating as far back as the 1970s … Y’know there are too many more to list. But in a year that saw all that bullshit – not to mention the UN telling us there is a ‘global pandemic’ of violence against women – A.S. King’s book is a revelation for youth literature. Not least because she brings feminism onto the page, and let’s young readers know that it’s okay (heck, it’s best!) if they count themselves as feminists.

5/5

2 comments:

  1. I hadn't heard much about this, except of course, that A.S. is King. I've yet to read one of her books (I know, terrible! it was my goal this year, but I promise myself it will be done next year. *Early* next year. And I can't wait). This sounds fabulous and I can't wait to own a copy very, very soon. I own Ask the Passengers, which is probably the book I'm anticipating most from King, apart from this one now. Do you think that's a good place to start?

    Amazing review and thank you very for sharing your thoughts and really putting this book on my radar. It totally sounds like my kind of book!

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    1. Hi Rebecca!

      Oh my God, I'm so excited for you to discover A.S. King! I would highly recommend all her books, but 'Ask the Passengers' is a *great* place to start, as is 'Please Ignore Vera Dietz' - come back and tell me what you think of her stuff!

      Happy Reading :)

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