A modified version of this review, including Dream Cast, can be found on Swoony Boys Podcast
The concept of All Our Yesterdays
by Cristin Terrill is amazing, but I don't think I'm smart enough to totally understand everything that happened. And I'm definitely not going to be able to articulately explain it to you without giving away all of the things, but I'll try not to be too spoilery.All Our Yesterdays
begins with Em staring at a drain in the floor that she's had an inexplicable preoccupation with since being imprisoned about four months prior. After some planning, she finally uncovers the secret within the drain--a piece of paper, written in her own handwriting, detailing what she has to do:
You have to kill him.
The people who are holding her constantly ask for the location of some mysterious documents. Despite being beaten, she refuses to give up what she considers her last bargaining chip, even when they torture Finn, the boy in the cell next to her. Because of the letter she found in the drain, she knows she and Finn will escape and that they have to fix whatever's going on. The only way to do that is to "kill him
This story is told in sort-of dual points of view--Marina from four years ago (the point at which everything "started") and Em, who is present-day Marina trying to fix everything. Through Marina (and the past), we learn that James, the genius boy who lives next door, is Marina's best friend who she's a crush on forever. His brother, Nate, is in Congress and has been raising James since their parents were killed when James was twelve years old.
Nate tells Marina that he's worried about his brother, and that the research James has been doing has caused him to be almost manic. He asks her to tell him if she notices anything weird going on with him. We find out that James has been working on making time travel a real possibility.
"It's something I've been working on for a long time. I'm finally starting to make some real progress, and those pages there are the crux of my formulations."
"What are they for?"
"Travel in the fourth dimension."
James's gaze flicks into the rearview mirror and back again. "Time travel."
I've listened to James talk about this for years, so it doesn't faze me, but Finn clicks off his seat belt and scoots up between us. "Say what now?"
"I know it sounds ridiculous, but I think it's possible and Dr. Feinberg agrees. When I finish those formulas, I'll prove it."
"What happens when you prove it?" Finn asks.
"We fix the world."
We know that James is successful, but what happened between then and present day? How did Marina and Finn become Enemies of the State, causing them to be on the run for the past four years? Who is the him
that they have to kill?
We learn some of this (and more), but I can't tell you any of it!
I can tell you what I liked about this book. Shocker: I loved Finn.
He's gorgeous and a computer genius and takes care of his mom and gives her orange juice. He's sweet and sexy and makes me swoon. He kisses her knuckles and brings her Oreos, even when he's mad and she's breaking his heart. He always lets her know how he feels and uses what could last moment to let her know what she means to him. Every. Time.
"Finn," I say, "if we can do it, if we change things, I'll never fall in love with you. And you'll never fall in love with me."
"Don't be so sure," he says, pressing his forehead to mine. "I think I was in love with you long before any of this started."
I don't know whether I want to laugh or cry. "Really?"
"Really." He presses a sweet kiss to my lips. "There's always hope for us."
I also really liked the connection that Finn and Em have, even though Marina apparently hated him. I didn't really understand why she felt that way, though. I really loved the whole idea
of this story. The way it was told was fast-paced and connected all together pretty well. I liked the characters, but I just felt like there should be more to them.
For as great as this book was, there are quite a few things that I found to be unexplained or lacking. One is the world-building aspect. In this book, there's almost a dystopian quality to the "new world," but there isn't very much of that displayed to us. There are some references to some past issues undone (like the Euro) but it seems to us that there would be more of that and would have made the motivations of the characters, whether for good or for evil, more believable.
The whole idea of paradoxes kind of goes over my head and I didn't feel like I had a good grasp of it, even with the explanations given in the book. There's also some contradiction that felt unnecessary and just added into my confusion,like the whole face-to-face thing. It was almost comical the way they were so worried about it. I also didn't understand why future Em didn't remember what brought her there and why she wouldn't remember placing the letter in the drain. Admittedly, I haven't read many time-travel books and this might be common knowledge, but I don't get it. I don't understand why she has to explain everything to Finn. She can remember the past four months of being in captivity and the the things the doctor
says to her, but why doesn't she know that to begin with? The concept of them not remembering seems to be negated when their past selves tell Connor what he will need to do. Maybe I missed something, but it confused me.
There are also some questions about the characters and their motivations, not the least of which is James...James. James. James. I can't really say what I want to here (sorry!) but his motivation seemed clear throughout the book--until the end. And then I had one of those wtf
moments and wondered who he really was all along. Finding out what we find out about him calls into question not only why he
turned into the person he did, but why Marina continued to feel the way she did about him. Even in the past, James used her, so we don't understand her need to protect him.
It seems kind of minor to mention this with all of the other things but her parents and their weird reactions to what's going on don't make sense to me, either.
One point that I'd like to make is that I read this as an ebook. I found myself flipping back and forth to check things that happened and would have preferred a hardcopy instead. If you're like me, you might prefer to buy the actual book :)
I don't really know why there is going to be more to this series--everything seemed to be wrapped up pretty nicely and ending it any other way seems fake. With that being said, ots of things that i didn't love about this book would have been resolved had it originally been planned out as a series (like the need for more character development). It all really comes down to this, though: more Finn, please
If you're looking for a fast-paced tale of time travel, deception, and lots of action with a little swoon thrown in, All Our Yesterdays will have you on the edge of your seat right up until the very last page.