All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill
Published: September 3rd 2013 by Disney Hyperion
Source: ARC from publisher
Synopsis (Goodreads): “You have to kill him.” 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 the day he moved next door when 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 apart, and with it, Marina’s hopes for their future. Now someone is trying to kill him. 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.
All Our Yesterdays is a wrenching, brilliantly plotted story of fierce love, unthinkable sacrifice, and the infinite implications of our every choice.
My thoughts: All Our Yesterdays was one of the “buzz” YA titles at BEA and editor Emily Meehan did a great job of selling it; my interest was piqued at “you have to kill him.” I am pretty much all about doomed romance, and for me, this hook brings back images of Buffy killing Angel in season 3. So yeah. This concept works for me.
Other things that thrill me about All Our Yesterdays:
- fabulous gender neutral cover
- stand alone sci-fi
- great concept, easy to booktalk
This is a book I will recommend the hell out of in the library, even if I hadn’t have enjoyed it as much as I did.
It’s no surprise All Our Yesterdays has been optioned for film. The book reads like a fast-paced action thriller. Despite elements that could have easily made the story confusing, like two separate time lines, paradoxes, and characters meeting their past selves, Terrill pulls it off.
Science fiction is meant to show us a world that is possible and events that could come to pass. Time travel is endlessly fascinating, and a look at the terrible ways it could be used by governments to exert control is terrifying. This is the reality that Em is face with and serves as the background to the story. The mechanics of time travel can be confusing, but Terrill weaves in explanation for the phenomenon that manages to be believable and incredibly frightening without slowing down the story.
At the heart of this novel lies the question: If you could go back in time and eliminate someone who was responsible for bringing something into the world that could wreak so much havoc, would you? If it was someone you once loved, could you?
Not only are the stakes incredibly high, the characters are surprisingly well-drawn. Em, and her past self, Marina, are unique but obviously one in the same, a difficult feat for a writer. Em’s growth is obvious, and her love for her former self is palpable. It’s this connection, more than the romance, that forms the emotional core of the novel. Em wants a better future for her self-absorbed and naive younger self, and she’ll do anything to ensure this outcome.
This synopsis leaves out my favorite character, Finn, who is just as important to the story as Em or James (though the UK synopsis offers a slightly different version where he’s included). A friend to both James and Marina, he always had feelings for her, but kept them hidden. When they begin to fear the future that James envisions and are on the run together, they grow very close, but are kept so far apart, locked in separate cells once they are captured. Finn’s backstory broke my heart and his wit injected some lighter moments into the story. The dynamic between Finn, Em, and James is nuanced and realistic and well-drawn in both timelines.
The romance is well-done, and doesn’t overshadow the core time travel story line. It’s heartbreaking. And that’s how I like my romance.
This is an expertly plotted novel that demanded my attention, and is one I will likely revisit. It’s definitely on my list for future teen book club picks, because it is full of excellent fodder for discussion. I highly recommend this for fans of sci-fi, time travel, and fast-paced action. Cristine Terrill is a novelist to watch, and I’ll be looking forward to any books she writes in the future. This was the strongest debut I’ve read so far this year.
Realm of Fictions: “Cristin Terrill’s mind-bending thriller is intense, clever and achingly romantic. For me, this is time-travel as it should be – exciting and completely unpredictable (even if not technically flawless).”