Review: Past Present Future

Past Present Future

by Rachel Lynn Solomon

Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2024

Category: Young Adult
Reviewer: Rebecca Greer

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This sequel to Today Tonight Tomorrow takes place as new couple Rowan Roth and Neil McNair head off to college: unfortunately, different colleges, with Rowan going to Emerson in Boston and Neil at NYU. This leaves the pair to navigate a long-distance relationship as they experience living away from home for the first time. While they enjoy their respective cities, they suffer self-doubt as they embark on surprising journeys of self-discovery. Life-long romance fiction aficionado Rowan worries she can no longer write romance now that she’s in love. Rowan has an absentee roommate she was hoping to befriend and is left wondering if she did something wrong. Neil instantly bonds with his roommate Skyler, something he’s surprised about since Skyler is popular and confident while Neil is a self-described “nerd”. Neil’s issues with his incarcerated father has him spiraling, with Neil not wanting to hear from him. In wondering about his dad’s mental health issues, he starts to consider psychology as a major instead of linguistics, although his love of language is a connection he has with Rowan. Told from a dual perspective, this realistic romance novel has the main characters hiding their struggles from one another, afraid it will hurt their partner or damage the relationship. This is the story that takes place after the “Happily Ever After” as Rowan would say, showing the realistic difficulties of being in a relationship and growing as an individual. Extremely well-written with characters that leap off the page, this is one of the rare sequels that might eclipse the original.

The Jewish representation in this book is part of each main character's identity. One of their favorite memories together is celebrating Shabbat with Rowan’s parents. It feels authentically part of who they are. They both want to connect more to the Jewish community, having grown up in a place with few other Jewish people outside of their own families. There is no particular stream of Judaism or community, instead it is something they look for here and there. Neil attends a group that meets for Reform Shabbat and slowly becomes engaged with that community. The Jewish content is integral to the story as their shared religion and feelings of isolation and being othered helps to bond the couple together. Judaism is casually mentioned throughout the book, but each time with purpose in the plot. It is woven into the story well with non-Jewish readers able to understand what they’re talking about. The main characters lives will help reader’s understanding of the Jewish experience, though for the characters their experiences are individual to them and their relationship with their religion. The book provides insight into basic religious practices, including Shabbat and Hanukkah. 

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Rebecca Greer is currently a High School Library Media Specialist for Manatee School for the Arts. In her previous life, she was a Young Adult Librarian for almost ten years where she specialized in running large-scale programs, including Teen Lit Fest, an author festival in Tampa, FL. Rebecca writes book reviews for School Library Journal focusing on books for Young Adults, and several of her programs have been published in "Think Big!: A Resource Manual for Teen Library Programs That Attract Large Audiences".