Goodreads Summary: "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.Goodreads / Barnes and Noble
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.
Genre: Young adult, science fiction
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
First Line: "I stare at the drain in the center of the concrete floor."
Favorite Quote: "I've been scared of so much stupid crap in my life. Making a bad grade or not fitting in. God, I was scared of you. And it was all such a waste. None of it matters now that the real scary shit is here."
When I first saw the blurb for this book, I was interested, but I wasn't super excited for it. It's not that it didn't sound great - it did - but I was a little wary of it because I'm almost always on the fence when it comes to novels that center on time travel. At first, I couldn't really put my finger on why I avoided them, but at this point I realize it's because they can be confusing. Getting all the different time lines mixed up with what happened, what may have happened, or actually didn't happen at all can lead to lots of frustration if everything's not explained properly. However, once in a while I find something that handles this subject believably and is told in a way I can easily follow. I was hoping I would find a winner with All Our Yesterdays, and thankfully, I did. It easily exceeded my expectations, and I would even call it one of my favorites of this year so far. Honestly, though, I should have expected better - almost all of the reviews I read beforehand were positive.
Another aspect of time travel that can by tricky is the science. I don't know much about the subject myself, so it's not like I can point out anything that was definitely unrealistic but from what I could tell it seemed to come together well. I liked how the book didn't really linger on the science lingo about how the time machine worked, because it really wasn't important to the story and I probably would have skimmed that part anyway. When the story first opens, Em is sitting in a cell and she and her friend Finn are being tortured on a regular basis because their captors want to know the location of some mysterious documents. Em finds a piece of paper in a sewer drain that instructs her to kill "him". Sounds like an interesting beginning, right? Well, I was almost immediately hooked. The only thing that kept me from loving it at first was the fact that I wasn't completely sure about what was going on. Despite what I said earlier, All Our Yesterdays is a bit confusing at first. But I promise that if you have some patience and continue deeper into the story, the pieces will come together eventually.
The narration of the book switches back and forth from Em to Marina. Marina was much harder to like than Em, but really that's not her fault. She's a fairly naive, slightly superficial girl who is obsessed with her childhood friend James and wants nothing more than to get him to notice her as more than a friend. If you took away all the time Marina was thinking of James, you may have a page or two of internal monologue. I know that sounds like it could get annoying, and maybe it did at some point, but it's actually very important to later events in the story. Em is tougher and focused on survival and saving the world, which she is attempting to do by making sure the time machine is never built. There were plenty of questions I had over the course of the entire book, and they were answered one at a time, so I always had a reason to keep turning the pages. Finn was an excellent addition to the story - of the three, he was the most lighthearted and I really enjoyed his personality. I even grew to care about James, and by the end I still did. I'm not sure how much the author intended for us to like him, but despite everything I wanted everything to work out for him. The villain of the story, the "doctor" is named after a while, but for a long time I suspected he would be a flat character who isn't around enough to have much substance. When the secret about him was revealed, I realized how wrong I was.
Terrill's writing was pretty good, too - and the funny thing is, I didn't even realize how great it was until I got to the last few chapters. I mean, it was a pretty great story up until then - but it was good in a "I just read a good book, now I'm moving onto something else" way. Not until I was crying towards the end did I understand how much I cared about these people and that All Our Yesterdays had graduated to "I'm going to have a bookish hangover after this" territory. It's been a while since the greatness of something gradually creeped up on me, and I appreciated it. Though I wish the story could have ended a little differently, I appreciated the bittersweet touch. It was uncommon for a YA book and since a lot of them have been startlingly similar lately, the originality was a breath of fresh air. I just found out that there's going to be a sequel, though . . . so does that mean the ending will be happier overall? I'm not sure how I feel about that, but I'm more than willing to read another story set in this world. I encourage you not to overlook this amazing debut, because that would truly be a mistake. There was one thing in particular that confused me about the end, but I'll put that below.
Books in this series:
1. All Our Yesterdays
There Were Books Involved
If You've Read The Book: I don't understand how Finn was alive at the end. I mean, the younger versions of both him and James died, so why would James stay dead while Finn did not? No matter how I look at it, it doesn't make much sense.