Every once in a while I come across a fun and interesting YA contemporary that pulls me in. This was one of them and I’m so glad to have read and enjoyed it.
Here’s more about If You, Then Me
What would you ask your future self? First question: What does it feel like to kiss someone?
Xia is stuck in a lonely, boring loop. Her only escapes are Wiser, an artificial intelligence app she designed to answer questions like her future self, and a mysterious online crush she knows only as ObjectPermanence.
And then one day Xia enrolls at the Foundry, an app incubator for tech prodigies in Silicon Valley.
Suddenly, anything is possible. Flirting with Mast, a classmate also working on AI, leads to a date. Speaking up generates a vindictive nemesis intent on publicly humiliating her. And running into Mitzy Erst, Foundry alumna and Xia’s idol, could give Xia all the answers.
And then Xia receives a shocking message from ObjectPermanence: He is at the Foundry, too. Xia is torn between Mast and ObjectPermanence—just as Mitzy pushes her towards a shiny new future. Xia doesn’t have to ask Wiser to know: The right choice could transform her into the future self of her dreams, but the wrong one could destroy her.
Having a programming husband, I know way more than I need to about coding and the tech world. However, this book presented me with a completely different aspect; the business side. It was interesting to see how tech looks at these young folks and their apps. There was a bit of snobbery with some of the ideas the kids had while other kids were trying to save the world with their apps. I also thought it was interesting to see who got bought and who got funding. I don’t know much about those parts, but it was fun to read about.
Xia was the definition of naive young person. The story followed her more than had a plot that moved forward. Her actions leading her character development felt spot on and her blown up ego at the end made so much sense to me. Although, it did surprise me when the book finally got to the final showcase and everyone was already prepared.
I also really liked her removal from both the tech world (growing up outside of Boston) and from the kinds of privilege and luxury the other kids. She got herself into a lot of messes. At one point, I kind of felt bad for her. A lot of the situations she found herself in were very adult for someone just sixteen to be in. I don’t think it was wild that she went off to California on her own (as someone who’s traveled across the world at 15, I know that that level of responsibility is possible for someone that age), but the situations she found herself in were so much more than even I want to find myself in. Because as an adult, you can read her situations and can determine right off the bat that something feels scammy or someone’s out to get you behind your back, but as a kid, you don’t know better. This is all new to you and with that newness comes a level of naivety that you don’t develop until you’ve experienced it.
The situations Xia found herself were rough and with each new experience, it felt like it got worse and worse for her. At one point, I just wanted to give her a big old hug and pull her away from everything. I wanted to save her from what she was going through, but at the same time I understand how important it is to experience these things first hand. That’s how you grow and learn.
The characters were great. I thought it was an interesting mix including folks who were super rich and privileged and other folks who didn’t have all the luxuries in the world. There was a lot of backstabbing, envy and jealousy, and petty arguments as well given that they’re teenagers who were living in boarding school together. It made for some interesting dynamics that played so well throughout the story. I loved Amina, Xia’s best friend. She was so confident in knowing who she was, which was just a nerdy tech girl feeling a bit lost in the whole game of things. She provided such good advice and insight that Xia desperately needed (and desperately avoided).
The only issue I had was that there were a few storylines that were dropped towards the end. I wanted to know what happened to Mitzy and I wondered what the kids were doing after they finished their year at the foundry. Also, it felt like Mast dropped off right in the middle of the story and aside from a few glances his way, he didn’t have a big part in the story. It made the ending feel a bit weird. It’s not a big deal, but something I noticed while I was finishing up the book.
I also loved the whole You’ve Got Mail vibe going with Xia and her mysterious online friend, ObjectPermanence. I tried to guess who it was (and came out wrong), but pleasantly surprised to find out who it was in the end.
Overall, this was a fun story that followed a young person through some heavy trials and tribulations. I really loved getting to know Xia throughout.
I received a copy of this book from the author. My opinion hasn’t been influenced by the publisher or the author.