Hardcover, 272 pages
Expected publication: July 28th 2015 by Scholastic Inc.
Format read: Finished copy via Publisher
Heartwarming and thoughtful, this is a quiet and lovely book on appreciating what you have and living life to the fullest, in the darkest of moments.
Just over twenty-four hours are left until an asteroid strikes North America, and for Emerson and everyone else who didn't leave, the world will end. But Emerson's world already ended when she ran away from home. Since then, she has lived on the streets, relying on her wits and on her friend Vince to help her find places to sleep and food to eat.
The city's quieter now that most people are gone, and no one seems to know what to do as the end approaches. But then Emerson and Vince meet Carl, who tells them he has been granting people's wishes -- and gives them his wallet full of money.
Suddenly, this last day seems full of possibility. Emerson and Vince can grant a lot of wishes in one last day -- maybe even their own.
However, I don’t think I’ve ever been so surprised by a book, like I was by All We Have is Now. Lisa Schroeder takes what could have easily been a doom and gloom end-of-the-world scenario, and turns it into something that’s ultimately beautiful, uplifting and restorative.
Things that worked:
From the first page, it’s easy to like Emerson. She’s quick on her feet and likable, but also sincerely pragmatic, as she’s faced with the inevitable end of the world.
Schroeder does a great job showing Emerson’s evolution throughout the book, starting with her previous days as a homeless teen on the streets of Portland with Vince by her side, to someone who is now starting to reflect on her past life choices, including the moments with her family that she wishes had gone very differently.
But what’s notable though, is that Emerson very much becomes the everywoman for those who are waiting for the end of the world, and for the readers themselves. She represents just what each of us would likely do in a similar situation, including her yearning for conversations that should have gone differently, to her abject fear of facing her past head on.
It’s easy for readers to imagine themselves in her shoes, which makes both her big dreams - e.g. seeing her family; a potential romance - to wanting to have pie, all the more relatable.
As for the secondary characters, Schroeder does make it a point to occasionally shift to their POV. While she touches on them lightly - we don’t get quite the insight or analysis that we do with Emerson - Schroeder does do a beautiful job of connecting them with Emerson’s journey, showing that even as everyone may wait for the end of the world, there’s a certain unifying force behind that wait, which helps bring people closer together.
On that note…
All We Have is Now, takes place in a very compact period of time. While the book generally follows a linear plot - Schroeder presents a handy countdown to impact in the upper right-hand corner of each new chapter - the book also uses poetry, as both a means for flashbacks, and insights into a character’s state of mind.
It works spectacularly in this context, because we see how each step that the characters take as they move forward or in Emerson and Vince’s case, fulfill wishes, is ultimately motivated by those past moments and hidden feelings. It’s also something that connects the characters, even as they themselves may not realize it, as they count down to the end.
And while the world outside of Emerson/Vince/the secondary character’s bubbles aren’t fully sketched out - we get a few paragraphs here or there, about both the lead-up to the end, and the rest of the world - it doesn’t really matter. Schroeder really emphasizes the fact that this journey is the journey of this very core group, and anything else, for the moment, rightfully falls by the wayside.
One of my biggest pet peeves in any book, is when characters begin to fall for each other while they’re in the midst of mortal danger.
However, this absolutely wasn’t the case for Emerson and Vince. Schroeder does a beautiful job of setting up a long history between the two of them, including missed first kisses, awkward realizations, and their life on the street.
By building upon that pre-existing foundation, we see very clearly, why the two of them begin to realize the truth of their feelings. And because they’re living with the knowledge that there’s very little time left, it makes sense for them to explore what might possibly come of that truth.
Family is the driving force behind the majority of the character’s decisions throughout the novel, whether it’s wanting to escape your family one final time, or paying tribute to family members who have already been lost to time. Emerson and Vince’s decisions to help fulfill wishes, are also predicated by her finding familial similarities to those who cross her path.
In every case, Schroeder paints a thoughtful picture on how relationships between family members are formed, fractured and repaired, and how it’s often time that can really heal all wounds.
This is a lesson that Emerson grapples with throughout the book, and her struggles to work through her family issues, and
Lisa mentioned on Twitter that she’s worried about the ending, but it’s perfect. The book could have ended in so many different ways, but her choice really emphasizes the many messages shared in the book.
Things that didn't work/Things to consider:
There are several references in the book to people taking the end-of-the-world scenario in their own hands, including suicide. While Schroeder makes a compelling overall case for why people shouldn’t end their lives that way, the references still may trouble younger readers.
The one thing that I’d advise readers to do while reading, is to take a moment to savor and appreciate Schroeder’s poetry as they read.
The interspersed poems not only offer beautiful, much-appreciated context for the characters, they’re also just really lovely pieces of writing. There’s an elegant simplicity to them, which has made me really want to seek out other examples of Lisa’s poetry.
Lisa Schroder takes the often-mused, often-asked idea of what a person would do if it it was their last night on earth, and absolutely flips it on its head. This isn’t a book about wild parties or wanton destruction - I’m looking at you, This is the End - but rather a story about humanity showing its best side
I highly recommend this book for all readers, full stop. This is a book that has a lot of cross-genre appeal, and will especially appeal to contemporary fans who are looking for something a little different.
About the author:
Lisa Schroeder is the author of the teen novels THE BRIDGE FROM ME TO YOU; I HEART YOU, YOU HAUNT ME and its companion, CHASING BROOKLYN; and the Oregon Book Award finalist THE DAY BEFORE. She's also the author of the middle-grade novel MY SECRET GUIDE TO PARIS, the Charmed Life series, and the It's Raining Cupcakes trilogy. Lisa is a native Oregonian and lives in Beaverton with her husband and two sons. When she's not writing, you will probably find Lisa reading, walking the dog, baking yummy treats, or at www.lisaschroederbooks.com.