My Rating: 3 / 5
Average Goodreads rating: 3.69 / 5
The Futures by Anna Pitoniak is a beautifully written book. The writing flows effortlessly and the emotion feels real throughout. Pitoniak has given us a story many post-grads will be able to relate to, a story of a young couple that moves to New York City immediately after college graduation. She perfectly captures the fear and unknowing of entering the real world and finally becoming “an adult.” One of the things that struck most true with me is that feeling of not fitting in anywhere when you are fresh out of college. You are no longer a youth, with no commitments or responsibility, but you don’t feel as together as your older co-workers who have years more experience than you. At one point Julia is at a party, and she feels like some of the people there are acting like it’s a college party, drinking cheap beer and getting way too drunk. Others at the party are trying to act much older, and more sophisticated than they actually are. She thinks to herself “It surprised me how rarely those two worlds ever overlapped. There wasn’t any middle ground.” This is so true and it perfectly summed up many of my own anxieties when I was first out of college. This book is a wonderful read for anyone in their twenties, still trying to figure out where they belong.
Although I liked the writing of the book, and the overall message of the book, there were definitely some issues I had with it. Hence why it only received three stars from me. Normally I break my reviews into “what was good” and “what was bad.” However, with this book I felt like there was a lot of overlap between the two. So instead of my normal style, I am going to simply outline my overall thoughts on the book.
- The story is told from a dual perspective. The narration in this book is split evenly between the two protagonists, Evan and Julia. There were points in which the multi-perspective worked, specifically when they were talking about their relationship. It was interesting to see the same event unfold from each of their eyes. I felt like it really went to show how one moment can be interpreted so differently by each person, and specifically how men and women see things so differently. However, huge chunks of the book are not at all about the relationship. Much of Evan’s perspective is spent talking about the financial crisis of 2008 and a shady business deal he is part of. Because this becomes such a focus of the book, at times it felt like I was reading two totally different novels; one that is a modern day Wall Street and the other a typical chick lit novel. I found I related more to Julia and her side of the story, which meant often I became disinterested in Evan’s story. The Julia chapters read like a breeze for me where as the Evan chapters I definitely had to push through occasionally.
- There’s a complete lack of diversity in this book. It is a story about upper class white kids having very privileged problems. This I think will be many readers’ main complaint about the book. The only non-white characters we meet are a group of shady Chinese business men. Occasionally we are reminded that Evan didn’t come from money; that he has simple roots. You would never guess it though because he fits right in with the fellow Wall Streeters. Julia grew up rich. She went to Yale. Her family has connections, that help her land her first job. The girl has so much opportunity that it is often difficult to feel sorry for her.
- The writing is beautiful, but at times a bit drawn out. I loved Pitoniak’s style and voice, but sometimes I felt like she was drawing the story out. I especially felt this at the end in part III. The story becomes significantly slower towards the end, pages devoted to Julia pondering her place in the world. There were also new relationships suddenly introduced in the end that felt unnecessary to the story. This book could have easily been fifty pages shorter, and probably packed more of a punch.
- Time definitely is not linear in this book. This book utilized tons of flashbacks to tell the story. Sometimes they were wonderful. I especially enjoyed the flashbacks to Julia and Evan’s college days. It helped me to understand them as a couple, but it also worked to build tension in Julia’s story. Julia reconnects with a boy, Adam, who she knew from college. The flashbacks allowed us to slowly see Julia and Adam’s story unfold. However, other parts the flashbacks were confusing. Often the book flashes back to only a week or two weeks earlier, a time when the characters were already in New York. This made it difficult to keep track of whether we were in the current or the past, and the order all the events took place.
The message of this book was wonderful. Life is hard and life is messy, but it’s messy for everyone. I found there was a lot of truth in this book, from the way the characters behave to the way they feel. This is Anna Pitoniak’s debut novel, and I would definitely read whatever she publishes next. I think she has a lot of potential as a budding new author.