Book: All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill
Genres: YA, Science Fiction (Time Travel), Dystopia
Publication Date: June 4, 2013
Synopsis: I’m going to keep this summary vague because this book is twisty. The novel’s plot is driven by time travel and there are two very different narrators: Em and Marina. Em is imprisoned in a cell obsessing over a drain in the floor that she’s convinced contains a secret. In the cell next to her is Finn, the guy who talks and sings to her and somehow manages to make her smile despite their terrible circumstances. Their days essentially consist of talking to each other through the wall and being interrogated and/or tortured by two men referred to as “the director” and “the doctor,” who are determined to uncover Em’s most guarded secret.
Meanwhile, the painfully insecure Marina is hopelessly in love with and fiercely protective over her best friend, James. Born into a very wealthy and famous family, James is an awkward but gorgeous genius who has begun work on his PhD by the time he’s eighteen. Just when Marina thinks their relationship might be going somewhere, tragedy strikes – and so begins the series of events that ultimately connects her to Em.
Thoughts: This book is emotionally taxing. Even though the real-time action takes place over a matter of days, you are shown each character’s strengths, weaknesses, insecurities, and motivations. Em is strong, stubborn, and determined, yet haunted by a weakness she can’t overcome. Marina, who initially comes off as shallow and self-absorbed, quickly becomes a sympathetic character. James is uncontrollably passionate. Finn is perfect. Props to Terrill for writing such genuine characters that you can’t help but grieve for.
The time travel aspect was skillfully done and addressed things such as paradoxes. Scientific explanations for time travel can often be confusing, but Terrill’s explanations are relatively straightforward; there was only one instance where I had to remind myself of how the time travel was at play. There are two things about the time travel in All Our Yesterdays to keep in mind: (1) time isn’t linear and (2) certain events become fixed in time.
The biggest problem I had to overcome while reading was this: you have to accept that James is a scientific prodigy that graduates high school early and is already working on his PhD at John Hopkins by the time he’s 18.
This just seemed implausible to me, but maybe it’s because I don’t know any geniuses. At some point, I just had to suspend my disbelief about James because the plot hinges on it.
I also thought the book just wasn’t long enough. Some of the gaps between the two narratives are filled in with flashbacks (of sorts), but I thought it was lacking. The feeling that I wanted more of the in-between narrative – and thought that it could’ve been done – is the main reason I’ve given the book four stars instead of five. It will be interesting to see how the sequel plays out since All Our Yesterdays could easily stand alone.
THAT ENDING THOUGH.
I thought that it worked perfectly, heartbreak and all. So bittersweet. Read it!