Archana’s World: Author A.S. King Continues to Impress Readers



I would’ve bought this book just for the cover model.

A.S. King is widely acclaimed for her unique, quietly searing YA magical realism novels, and Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future is a fine addition to her canon. The novel details the life of recently graduated Gloria O’Brien as she heals from the repercussions of her mother’s suicide. After drinking a mummified bat, Glory and her friend Ellie gain the ability to see people’s pasts and futures upon looking at them. This peculiar capability brings startling revelations about the people in Glory’s life that violently coalesce into a chilling narrative of the world’s future. Glory must navigate this vision while struggling with her deteriorating friendship with Ellie, her mother’s suicide, post-graduation worries, and deep-rooted family issues.

This book could have easily been weepy and sentimental, but King’s unflinching examination of daily life and human nature turns Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future into an elegant and haunting modern bildungsroman. After hearing the premise readers may expect to struggle through the novel, but King keeps them hooked throughout. Glory’s visions of the future, which she records for posterity, are frightening and all too reminiscent of today, lending a mood of modern meaninglessness to the novel. The future narrative slowly aligns with Glory’s own story to lend another dimension to her growth, a skilled move on King’s part. The way Glory manages her mother’s suicide is compelling without being cheesy or overdone. And her relationship with her friend Ellie is relatable for most. It’s also funny.

The success of any self-reflective novel hinges on its protagonist. Glory is accordingly a brilliant creation: she is independent by nature rather than out of defiance, sensitive, perceptive, intelligent, and gently moral. Many teens in these sorts of coming-of-age novels are wearingly egocentric, which lends a believable but irritating flavor to the narrative; Glory manages to be necessarily self-reflective yet not solipsistic, making her more likable than the protagonists of many other YA novels (The Catcher in the Rye, The Carbon Diaries, Mockingjay.)

Only the ending keeps this novel from a 5/5 rating. Glory grows and takes appropriate action to rectify her circumstances, but the resolution is somehow lackluster and predictable. To be fair, it’s difficult to find a better way to wrap up the novel, but the ending is still a mild letdown, especially given the power of the future visions and the striking haunting of Glory’s mother. However, overall the novel is startlingly original, riveting, and another success for A.S. King.

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