All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

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.

I don't think I've adequately mentioned how much I love time travel stories: I really, really love time travel stories. I don't think I've adequately mentioned how much time travel stories that aren't properly thought through and are full of logical impossibilities irritate me: I am really, really irritated by flawed time travel stories. Looper was very, very annoying. The movie I've seen most recently that does some version of time travel really, really well was probably Triangle, which reminds me of All Our Yesterdays - going around and around in time trying to fix the unfixable.

All Our Yesterdays reads like a movie, but I mean that in the best possible way - it's fast-paced and evocative and tightly-packed - cinematic but not tacky or cliche (they're turning it into a film, which I am not the least surprised about. I look forward to seeing it and not comparing it to the book, in order to avoid disappointment). A little overwrought at times but it works. A little predictable, sure - when I finished the novel I was still so incredibly excited by it, I went to convince my sister to read it. I explained the premise and she immediately guessed the ending. But there's a sort of dark inevitability to it when you're reading, so, yes, you'll likely work out the twist early on but it doesn't take away from your enjoyment of the book.

And the time travel? The time travel's perfect. It all made sense. I couldn't find a flaw in it. Amazingly well-plotted. I don't think you properly grasp how delighted that made me. It functions so beautifully as an action sci-fi thriller that I'll look past the fact that I find the protagonist annoying - I almost always dislike the protagonists in these big blockbuster-y novels, and I think it's possibly because I'm so used to reading character-driven fiction, where it is all about the protagonist rather than a big dramatic plot. It's sort of tricky to do both well, I think - don't really have room for a well-built interior life for a character when they're being shot at and sent through time and so forth. The villains are always my favourite, anyway.

It ends perfectly. Good endings are difficult. I was impressed. You like time travel, you should read it. You like any of the big dystopic YA novels, you should read it. I'm not generally all that enamoured with books in that category (I may just have bestseller prejudice. Is that hipster of me? Apologies), but All Our Yesterdays is a stand-out.
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