This Thing Called the Future


ALA 2012 Best Fiction for Young Adults

This Thing Called the Future
This Thing Called the Future

Named a Best Book of 2011 by Kirkus

Winner of the 2012 Patterson Prize for Books for Young People, ages 7-12

Winner of the annual Texas Institute of Letters Best Young Adult Book, 2012

Bank Street’s Best Books of the Year List, 2012

Delta College (Michigan): 60 Years, 60 Great Books, 2011

Read the first five chapters!

“Through the eyes of a conflicted teenager, Powers (The Confessional) composes 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.” Publisher’s Weekly, March 21, 2011

“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. ” Kirkus, April 15, 2011

“The tense story builds skillfully to an anguished revelation readers will want to discuss.” Booklist, June 7, 2011.

“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.” –Sarah Ellis, professor in the Vermont College MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults, and reviewer for The Horn Book and the New York Times.

“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.”—Emily Wing Smith, author of The Way He Lived and Back When You Were Easier to Love


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 and 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 witches’ 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.

J.L. Powers holds master’s degrees in African History from State University of New York-Albany and Stanford. She won a Fulbright-Hayes to study Zulu in South Africa, and served as a visiting scholar in Stanford’s African Studies Department. This is her second novel for young adults.

Interviews with J.L. Powers

 Through the Tollbooth!

Book Brahmin/Shelf Awareness

Guest Post on Cynsations, Cynthia Leitich Smith’s blog.

Blog Reviews

Mabel’s Fables

Strong in the Broken Places



Imaginary Reads

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