Study Guide

The Future of Us Themes

  • Dreams, Hopes, and Plans

    Two things about hopes and dreams in The Future of Us: Everybody has different dreams, and dreams change. Josh and Emma are in prime dreaming territory: High school is a time of exploration and figuring out who you are, and since a lot of their life hasn't happened yet, there are so many different paths for them each to consider.

    But when Josh thinks his life pans out as a dream come true, and Emma decides to try to tweak her future to satisfy her current dreams, well, things get messy in the present—until they realize that the best way to make their dreams come true is to invest in making sure their lives are meaningful right now.

    Questions About Dreams, Hopes, and Plans

    1. What do Josh's dreams and plans for the future say about his character? What does Emma's future say about her? Are there similarities?
    2. What are Kellan's dreams? Are they at risk of being thwarted? What do you think of the fact that Emma opts not to tell Kellan what she sees in her future?
    3. In the end, does knowing the future change what Josh wants? What about Emma?

    Chew on This

    This book argues that dreams don't matter—it's all about building the here and now.

    This book argues that dreams do matter—it's just that the only way to attain them is to focus on the present.

  • Freedom and Confinement

    In The Future of Us, Emma and Josh experience all sorts of chains and shackles, metaphorically speaking. High school is the culprit: Cool kids rule and everyone else drools, parents monitor their every move, and once they find out what their lives are doing to be like in the future, well, everything just feels that much more high stakes. Here's the thing, though: Despite all of this, Emma and Josh are totally in charge of their lives. So while they feel trapped by the future at points, ultimately they realize that they're the ones running the show. Yay.

    Questions About Freedom and Confinement

    1. What are the different ways that Emma and Josh feel confined? What do they feel confined by?
    2. If you could see into the future, do you think it would be set, or do you think that you would be free to change things about it?
    3. Do you see Facebook (as we know it now) as confining? Why or why not? What ways does the book suggest social media frees us? How about limits us?

    Chew on This

    In this book, we're only as trapped as we let ourselves be.

    We're all trapped by the future—whether we pay attention to this, though, is up to us.

  • Language and Communication

    Communication is the name of the game in The Future of Us. Whether we're watching Emma and Josh awkwardly interact as they struggle to get their footing after stumbling over romantic feelings, witnessing Emma's status update spews in the future, or joining Emma's mom's crusade to get her to pick up the phone and call her dad already, communication—and miscommunication and failure to communicate—abounds in this book. But so it goes in the teen years, right? With or without Facebook in the mix.

    Questions About Language and Communication

    1. What are some of the ways that Facebook can be used for communication? What are some of the limitations the book explores?
    2. Emma often gets mad at Josh for not understanding her. Is this all Josh's fault, or is Emma failing to communicate with him as well? Use the text to support your claim.
    3. Is language the most important way to communicate? What other forms of communication do we see in this story? Is one always the most effective, or does the best mode change depending on the situation?

    Chew on This

    In The Future of Us, Emma and Josh both have to learn how to interact with each other as well as other people who are important to them.

    Social media is presented as the least effective form of communication in The Future of Us.

  • Identity

    Ever heard the expression fake it 'til you make it? In The Future of Us, Josh and Emma are teenagers, which means they're both in a stage of life where this is pretty much the go-to mantra when it comes to identity. Since they haven't left their parents' houses yet, they have a lot left to learn about themselves. As it stands, though, a big part of the book is watching them each learn bits and pieces about themselves, often realizing that what they think they want isn't always what they actually want.

    The way the story ends is a nice way to acknowledge this: Romantically, what they both want has been by their sides the entire time. But hey, no one ever said growing up was easy.

    Questions About Identity

    1. Look at your Facebook profile. Does it represent you accurately? Where are you faking it 'til you make it?
    2. How do Emma and Josh each identify themselves at the beginning of this book? How do their perceptions of their identities change?
    3. Whose identity changes the most in this book? Whose changes the least? What does this mean about these characters and their journeys to figure out who they are?

    Chew on This

    Emma's and Josh's identities don't change, they both just become more in tune with who they are.

    Emma and Josh each change over the course of the story so that, by the end, they each occupy different identities from the ones they start out with.

  • Time

    The Future of Us is a story about time travel—so naturally time's kind of a big deal. But this book isn't just concerned with the future. Emma and Josh spend a lot of time thinking about the past, back before things got weird between them, and they both ultimately discover that in focusing on the future, they're getting way ahead of themselves. The only reason the future exists is because of the present, after all, so while this book visits the future over and over again, ultimately the time that matters most is the here and now.

    Questions About Time

    1. Is time travel the only way that the authors help us see the importance of the present? What other aspects of the story show us the importance of now?
    2. Do you think that Emma's messy futures happen because she never thinks about her future until Facebook forces her to? On the flipside, why is Josh's future so unchanging?
    3. Do you think Emma's and Josh's futures would be exactly the same if they hadn't found Facebook and tried to change them? Why or why not? Use the text to support your answer. 

    Chew on This

    Before they discover Facebook, neither Josh nor Emma really thinks about their futures at all.

    The story starts in the middle: after Josh and Emma's fall-out, but before they discover the future. This makes sure the present takes center stage.

  • Love

    Love is in the air and on the Internet in The Future of Us, but to mixed success. Kellan and Tyson can't seem to figure out what they want from each other; Josh and Emma are struggling to regain their friendship after Josh's romantic revelation before the book opens; and Emma cannot seem to leave her future alone based on her dislike of the husbands Facebook shows await her. And that's really just to name a few of the ways love is woven into this story. While we see love in all sorts of forms, both good and bad, one thing is always true: It ain't easy… until, of course, it is.

    Questions About Love

    1. Do you think that Emma has a thing for Josh all along and just doesn't realize it? Why or why not? Use the text, yo.
    2. Do you think that Tyson and Kellan have a chance of being together in the future, or do you think that they'll both move on and find other people? What makes you think so?
    3. Do you think Sydney is just a distraction, or do you think that being with her helps Josh understand some things about his own heart? Depending on your answer, what's up with them being married?

    Chew on This

    This book doesn't believe in true love—that's why Emma has so many different future husbands.

    This book totally believes in true love—it's been Josh all along for Emma, she's just been too scared to realize it.

  • Technology and Modernization

    Technology is a huge deal in The Future of Us, and not just because Facebook pops up in a decade it has no business being in. This story is full of heirlooms from the 1990s, like pagers, color monitors, and the magical sounds of AOL. And here's the thing about the 90s: Technology was creating a new world then, a.k.a. the world we live in now. The Internet was just beginning its rise to world domination, so by taking a few steps back in time, our authors help us really appreciate how quickly—and how much—the world has changed since then.

    Questions About Technology and Modernization

    1. What are some modern things about the 90s that people a few years before them would have thought were futuristic? What is considered cutting-edge in this book? How does it impact characters' lives?
    2. How do Josh and Emma relate to Facebook differently from how they relate to the other technology in their lives? What social shift does this mark between the end of the 20th century and start of the 21st?
    3. Can you imagine some of the inventions that might be around in fifteen years?

    Chew on This

    More than anything, technology in The Future of Us is a commentary on communication.

    The Future of Us doesn't argue against technology so much as it argues for moderation with technology.

  • Society and Class

    Emma and Josh are in high school, which is kind of a mini-society insofar as each person fits into a role and plays a different part. And because everyone is trying to figure out who they are, there are lots of different stereotypes in high school: the band kids, the jocks, the popular kids, and so forth (for more on this, be sure to check out the "Character Clues" section). But while this theme definitely overlaps a bit with identity in The Future of Us, here we're focused on social categories and how they can be limiting. Nobody completely fits into a mold, after all.

    Questions About Society and Class

    1. What "group" would you say that you belong to? Has this changed, or always been the same?
    2. Are Emma and Josh in compatible social groups? Why or why not? How does this affect their friendship? How about their prospects for a relationship?
    3. Which character is most concerned with fitting neatly into a social group? Which character seems to care the least?

    Chew on This

    Josh and Emma are able to be best friends because they knew each other as neighbors before becoming schoolmates, and as such, social groups don't influence their friendship.

    Every character in this book fails to completely fit the social mold they're cast in.