All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill was ground zero for the recent reading slump I was in. I came down with a severe post-good-book-hangover and I took a very long time searching for a read as good as this one. Needless to say I did not like myself while I was in that slump. I am now reading 3 novels on a timed-schedule now, so I am the fast-track to recovery. I digress (#booknerdproblems).
All Our Yesterdays is an edge of the seat (or bed) YA thriller featuring one of my favorite tropes: time travel. And Terrill’s unique and exciting approach to the genre plus a smart engaging narrative made it hard to put down.
What would you change?
Imprisoned in the heart of a secret military base, Em has nothing except the voice of the boy in the cell next door and the list of instructions she finds taped inside the drain.
Only Em can complete the final instruction. She’s tried everything to prevent the creation of a time machine that will tear the world apart. She holds the proof: a list she has never seen before, written in her own hand. Each failed attempt in the past has led her to the same terrible present—imprisoned and tortured by a sadistic man called the doctor while war rages outside.
Marina has loved her best friend, James, since they were children. A gorgeous, introverted science prodigy from one of America’s most famous families, James finally seems to be seeing Marina in a new way, too. But on one disastrous night, James’s life crumbles, and with it, Marina’s hopes for their future. Marina will protect James, no matter what. Even if it means opening her eyes to a truth so terrible that she may not survive it… at least, not as the girl she once was. Em and Marina are in a race against time that only one of them can win.
All Our Yesterdays is a wrenching, brilliantly plotted story of fierce love, unthinkable sacrifice, and the infinite implications of our every choice.
What I Liked
There was a lot to like about this book.
Firstly, the pivotal characters of Em, Marina, Finn and James were multi-layered and complex, so much as that their emotions, doubts, conflicts and hopes felt real There is a particular focus of change, experience and growth and Em and Marina demonstrated this quite well.
Finn was an adorable character: funny, strong, tolerant and understanding. He was very easy to like, in comparison with James, Em and Marina, who were a lot more multi-faceted. That is not to say, that he was a one-dimensional character. He was just a rarity, in that he infused light in any situation.
James was more difficult to love and equally difficult to hate. I believe Ms Terrill wanted the reader to feel this because that is very much how Em, Marina and Finn feel about him.
Secondly, the world building and the science behind it felt deeply plausible, if not realistic. And I believe this is what extenuated the thrill of the read.
Thirdly, it is a wholesome read. There is romance, friendship, political intrigue, familial tension and a thought provoking focus on morality, innocence and conscience. It appealed to the science fiction and dystopian lover in me, as well as the side of of me that enjoys a good philosophical debate. All in all, a brilliant combination of genres and tropes that Terrill expertly presented for the YA crowd.
Finally, that ending! Bittersweet and oddly perfect (after some contemplation). I do love a ending that is a beginning but seldom it is done quite as well as it was done in All Our Yesterdays.
What I Did Not Like
I initially dropped to my knees and screamed to the heavens (in my head, of course) when I learnt that there were going to be no sequels. However, after considering it from a practical perspective I believe Ms Terrill gave it an apt conclusion. Obviously, the epilogue that Ms Terrill published on Tumblr aided my thoughts on the matters.
The final chapter did confuse me because time’s sentience is something that is seldom explored in popular fiction (Doctor Who being an exception) and I have a less than rudimentary knowledge of physics (let alone theoretical physics). A little research and discussion between fellow readers of book cleared the confusion though.
Otherwise, there was nothing about All Our Yesterdays that I did not enjoy.
In conclusion, All Our Yesterdays is a widely entertaining read and powerful debut by Ms Terrill. To say I look forward to her future works with rapt anticipation is an understatement. If you enjoy romance and science-fiction (of the time travel and/or dystopian variety), All Our Yesterdays will fulfill all your expectations.