This Thing Called The Future

By: J.L. Powers
“From the first words we are drawn into Khosi’s world. A great achievement by J.L. Powers.”—Deborah Ellis, author of The Breadwinner Trilogy |  South Africa & AIDS. Fourteen-year-old Khosi yearns for this thing called the future. Does she want too much?


This Thing Called the Future Teaching Guide

South Africa & AIDS. Fourteen-year-old Khosi yearns for this thing called the future. Does she want too much?

Khosi lives with her beloved grandmother, Gogo, her little sister Zi and her weekend mother in a matchbox house on the outskirts of Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. In that shantytown, it seems like somebody is dying all the time. Billboards everywhere warn of the disease of the day. Her Gogo goes to a traditional healer when there is trouble, but her mother, who works in another city, who is wasting away before their eyes, refuses to go even to the doctor. She is afraid and Khosi doesn't know what it is that makes the blood come up from her choking lungs. Witchcraft? A curse? AIDS? Can Khosi take her to the doctor? Gogo asks. No, says Mama, Khosi must stay in school. Only education will save Khosi and Zi from the poverty and ignorance of the old Zulu ways.

School, though, is not bad. There is a boy her own age there, Little Man Ncobo, and she loves the color of his skin, so much darker than her own, and his blue-black lips, but he mocks her when a witch's curse, her mother's wasting sorrow and a neighbor's accusations send her and Gogo scrambling off to the sangoma's hut in search of a healing potion.

Follow the J.L. Powers Blog Tour! Two weeks of blog posts, interviews and reviews of THIS THING CALLED THE FUTURE. Click here for the full list of participating blogs.

Click here read another great interview with Powers over at the Big Blue Marble blog.


Awards and Accomodations

Texas Institute of Letters Best Young Adult Book Award
Kirkus Best Teen Books 2011
Delta College 60 Years, 60 Great Books: 2011
Bank Street's Best Books of the Year List, 2012
ALA Best Fiction for Young Adults, 2012
2012 Paterson Prize for Books for Young People, grades 7-12
2011 Social Justice in ChildrenÍs/YA Reading List

21 reviews for This Thing Called The Future

  1. Kirkus Reviews
    This novel takes a loving, clear-eyed look at the clash of old and new through the experience of one appealing teenager… A compassionate and moving window on a harsh world.

  2. Publisher’s Weekly
    [A] compelling, often harrowing portrait of a struggling country, where old beliefs and rituals still have power, but can’t erase the problems of the present. Readers will be fully invested in Khosi’s efforts to secure a better future.

  3. The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books
    This is a fascinating glimpse into a worldview that, while foreign to many readers, is made plausible through Khosi’s practical and conflicted perspective.—Melisa Funfsinn

  4. The Horn Book Magazine
    Despite pervasive HIV and the specter of rape, as well as the restrictions on girls’ freedom that are her society’s only response, Khosi manages to find her power, refuse to be a victim, and carve out a future for herself that embraces both the modern and the traditional.—Anita L. Burkam

  5. School Library Journal
    This is a powerfully gripping, eye-opening novel that doesn’t pull any punches, and readers will long remember Khosi and the trials and tribulations facing South Africans as they venture forth into the modern world while desperately holding onto their heritage.

  6. Booklist
    [T]he tense story builds skillfully to an anguished revelation readers will want to discuss.

  7. VOYA
    Magic and science are woven together in this often stark story of AIDS and unrelenting poverty.

  8. El Paso Scene
    This Thing Called the Future is an excellent introduction to another culture and the hardships faced by young people growing up amid poverty, disease and ignorance.

  9. Times-Union
    Powers seamlessly combines contemporary realism with the supernatural in this powerful and singular novel.

  10. Children’s Literature
    This is a poignant story about a young woman struggling to ensure her family’s security although many factors are working against them.

  11. Out Smart Magazine
    Khosi’s story is not only an everywoman story of a girl growing up, it is an allegory of all the many challenges facing South Africa and its people.

  12. Christian Science Monitor

    This Thing Called the Future may deal with bleak topics, but there is hope and triumph, too. As Khosi looks toward that mysterious thing called the future, she believes she can make hers beautiful despite the sorrow around her.

  13. Chicago Tribune

    This novel offers an intimate glimpse into the challenges of being a contemporary teenage girl in South Africa.

  14. Stanford Alumni Magazine

    Bright and responsible, Khosi is growing up with her mother, grandmother and younger sister in a community devastated by AIDS and gangsters. She’s torn between traditional beliefs and modern ambitions—and Powers, writing her second novel, makes it clear that Khosi’s circumstances permit no facile answers.

  15. Ann Angel, author of Janis Joplin: Rise Up Singing

    Khosi’s heartbreaking and redemptive coming-of-age story compels us to face the demons within cultural superstitions and choose a future that can be changed.

  16. Emily Wing Smith

    In a literary landscape cluttered with the imagined powers of the paranormal, This Thing Called the Future introduces us to the reality that supernatural strength exists here and now. Gripping, honest, and eye-opening, this book will change the way you see the world.

  17. Sarah Ellis author of Odd Man Out and The Several Lives of Orphan Jack

    J.L. Powers takes the challenges and sorrows of contemporary South Africa and renders them powerfully immediate in the character of Khosi, a girl negotiating coming of age in her post-apartheid, AIDS-ravaged country. Provocative, unvarnished, loving.

  18. William Beinart, author of Twentieth-Century South Africa

    Basing her story on detailed research, Powers gets into the shoes of her imagined protagonist and sensitively explores her perceptions. This is a wonderful book with which to think about contemporary South Africa – about the trials of everyday life, about dreams, witchcraft, physical danger, adolescent love, and not least about ambition.

  19. The 4:00 Book Hook

    A fascinating look at life in a shanty town in present day South Africa.

  20. Teen Voices

    [T]he research J.L. Powers did is evident in every detail.This book offers a daunting, sincere, and profoundly human view of what’s happening on the other side of the globe.

  21. Worlds of Words Reviews

    The traumas that weave through Khosi’s life and by extension many areas of South Africa are both harrowing and insightful. This Thing Called the Future is well written and researched.—Holly Johnson

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