Julia and Evan pass the narrative baton back and forth in alternating chapters. Presenting different takes on the same events is not a new strategy, but it works well here, especially as they grow increasingly estranged, and their contrasting visions fall into sharper relief ... Pitoniak's precise and incisive powers of observation give us a book with startling grace notes ... A little amphetamine wildness is something The Futures could use. Yet Julie and Evan's world is not that of Kerouac, and the people who populate the New York City of 2008 have their own challenges. Grim as their world tends to be, it is our world, and Pitoniak gets much of it right.
With so many layers of character origin, The Futures is, variously, a campus novel, a Wall Street caper, a bildungsroman, and the saga of a long, slow breakup. But the most interesting element is that, in attempting to take stock of the financial crisis, Pitoniak is among the first novelists to try to articulate the Bloomberg era's significance ... among chapters set in Manhattan, New Haven, and the couple's hometowns, a tangible sense of place is fleeting, with breathless jumps from thinly sketched apartment to coffee shop to boardroom. The predictable setups and environs make too universal what should be an only-in–New York landscape of high stakes, high culture, and larger-than-life characters ... Pitoniak's grating tactic of alternating first-person narrators on a chapter-by-chapter basis (Evan's percolate, while Julia's drag) results in extraneous reiterations of the same scenes, and The Futures suffers from perfunctory dialogue and a flashback-laden narrative that sags during long passages of self-reflection. By casting the protagonists' plights within a tale of circumstance, the recession's impact is frequently minimized ... Pitoniak ultimately manages to answer many of the bigger questions she poses, and her greatest triumph is a perceptive speculation on the thin, blurry line separating crooks from heroes on Wall Street.
...the author manages to construct a solid little story out of individually flimsy building blocks, thanks to savvy plotting and nimble shifts in perspective ... Nonetheless, The Futures is saddled with banal fare ... Evan’s immersion in work doesn’t simply cause him to ignore Julia, but plunges him into a morally murky adventure that entrances the reader ... As she ratchets up the suspense, Pitoniak deepens the irony at the heart of The Futures. Julia and Evan are lovers who both crave affirmation. Yet they consistently fail to seek it from the most logical source: each other.
Pitoniak expertly captures both the excitement and the oppressive darkness of being young and at sea in New York City, the unsettlingly thin line between freedom and free fall. And while the novel isn’t always subtle in its revelations, it’s deeply empathetic—and always engaging. A bittersweet coming-of-age drama and a portrait of an era.
Navigating terrain—love and youth, college and city life—that’s often oversimplified, Pitoniak eschews cliché for nuanced characterization and sharply observed detail. Evan and Julia ring true as 20-somethings, but Pitoniak’s novel also speaks to anyone who has searched among possible futures for the way back to what Julia calls 'the person I had been all along.'”