A meteor is on a collision course with Earth. Scientists missed it until it was too late, and now, in just a little over 28 hours North America will be completely wiped out. For those who were unable or unwilling to leave the continent in time people are deciding how to spend the last few precious hours they have left. Some bunker down with their loved ones, some turn to crime, and others to suicide when the waiting begins to get to them. A fateful encounter inspired two street kids, Emerson and Vince, to walk away from a bridge and instead spend their last few hours helping others, and end up helping themselves out in the process.
All We Have is Now takes place in Portland, and visits many familiar local haunts while Emerson and Vince work on helping people they meet. Emerson is a runaway, and she struggles with her desire to see her family one last time, and her fear that they hate her. This insecurity also negatively affects her friendship with Vince, and repeatedly sabotages any romantic overtures on his part. That the two characters are homeless is a major driving force of the narrative, as it influences their perception, and it’s a refreshing characterization not frequently seen in YA literature. Despite this, the characters still somehow manage to remain somewhat two-dimensional and some readers may find themselves removed from the events on the page.
The world of Portland may feel familiar to local readers, but doesn’t quite ring true to a world in which the clock is ticking down to an impending Armageddon. It is briefly mentioned that there had been riots the week before, and yet there is never any mention of damage to property, vehicles, or even trash in the street. The only violence that is seen is mention of people stealing cars (and Carl’s head injury when people steal his). Even with Portland being a relatively safe and laid back city, it is unlikely that the characters wouldn’t have encountered a dead body or two either as the result of violence or suicide as they wandered around the city.
The book is simply written, with a focus on dialogue and internal monologue over setting and physical description. The narrative often relies on the seeming expectation that the readers will already be familiar with Portland and not need more than the bare minimum to conjure up an image. Many of the flashbacks are told in poetry format in between full chapters. The poems are free form, and the flashbacks they are telling would have probably been more impactful (and less visually jarring) if they had been told in standard dialogue or your typical flashback asides. Instead, these poetry sections come across as gimmicky.
Emerson and Vince’s desire to help others is sweet, but the multiple lucky coincidences and unsatisfying ending make All We Have is Now a quick, but less than exciting read.
Whitney Smyth received a Master’s in Book Publishing and Technical Writing at Portland State University, following a Bachelor’s in English at the University of Arizona. She took over ownership of Portland Book Review in December of 2014. She also works as a freelance editor and can be commissioned at Smyth Editorial Services and spends what little free time she has on her own writing. Coming from a family of readers she devours an average of one hundred books a year, in a variety of genres. Her favorite authors are far too numerous to list, but include Alexandre Dumas, Mary Shelley, Jim Butcher, and John Green.
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