Book Review: Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future

Posted September 8, 2014 by Kara in book review / 3 Comments

Book Review: Glory O’Brien’s History of the FutureGlory O'Brien's History of the Future by A.S. King
Published by Little Brown Books For Young Readers on October 14th, 2014
Genres: magical realism, young adult
Pages: 320
Format: ARC
Source: BEA
Buy on Amazon


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 everything in her power to make sure this one doesn’t come to pass.

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.

I cannot believe I ever said I wasn’t all that interested in this book.  What the hell is wrong with me?  To be fair to myself, I DID think this was about time travel.  I’m not really sure why, but apparently my blurb-reading comprehension is at an all-time low.  This book is not about time travel.  Instead, it’s about freedom, and growing up, and expectations, and two girls who drink the remains of a dead bat and gain superpowers.

Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future is weird.  AS King has her own certain brand of weirdness that I just love.  All her books are so completely different from one another, but they are all threaded together by an element of strangeness.  Her books have reincarnation and lucid dreams and all kinds of magical realism.  This book is no different.  Glory O’Brien and her friend Ellie find this petrified dead bad and put it in a jar.  The bat turns to dust, they mix it with warm beer, drink the awful concoction, and now, when they look at people, they see their infinities.  Their histories, their futures.  And as much as the book focuses on these strange transmissions – visions of a second civil war, New America, breeding camps, and a badass lady sniper – there’s so much else going on in this novel too.  The future-seeing powers are almost an aside.

Glory feels trapped by expectations, but not the kind you normally see.  Her father doesn’t pressure her to go to college or anything like that.  And she’s been too preoccupied for the past thirteen years to have bought into the beauty industrial complex’s ideas of what she should be.  Instead, all Glory can think about is her mother, who stuck her head in the over and killed herself thirteen years ago.  Glory thinks she’s headed for her own oven.  She’s not exactly suicidal, but she has no plans, no dreams, no future.  She can’t even see her future in the transmissions she gets from her dad.  That overwhelming weight of expectation is present throughout the book.  It makes the reader claustrophobic.  It puts you on edge.  Is Glory headed to her own oven one day?

I love Glory.  I loved everything about her, even though she isn’t exactly “likable,” whatever that means.  She’s standoffish.  She does not like people.  She does not want friends.  She only tolerates Ellie by default, since Ellie lives across the road on the hippie commune and Ellie is all Glory’s ever really known of friendship.  I don’t prescribe to Glory’s particular brand of feminism, which is to eschew anything overly girly or pink and to shame girls who pose naked.  But Glory is still a teenager, she’s still victim to the slut shaming mentality, she’s still forming her own ideas and perceptions of the world.  I liked her though.  I loved her snappy voice and her honesty.  I loved her passion for photography that was actually shown on every page and not just mentioned once or twice.  I felt the overwhelming weight on her shoulders.

Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future reminds me exactly why I love AS King’s work.  I started with The Dust of 100 Dogs – I loved it so much I even started a book blog.  Not all of King’s books worked for me – see, Everybody Sees the Ants – but Glory O’Brien was a joy to read.  It was heartbreaking and sometimes the honesty was a bit crushing, making me take a hard look at myself.  But it’s beautifully written and funny and original.  A must read for contemporary enthusiasts and people looking for something a little different.


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