All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill – Review

Posted: December 2, 2013 in Book Reviews, eBook reviews
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All Our Yesterdays by Cristen Terrill is a YA dystopian sci-fi time travel novel which tells the story of spoiled teen Marina and freedom fighters Em and Finn.  The twist – Marina and Em are the same character, only four years apart in age.  Em and Finn have travelled back in time to try to prevent the creation of the dystopian police state in which they are living.  To do this, they must kill “the doctor” a figure with close connections to all three of them. It is the first in a two-book series although it could work as a standalone, depending on your interpretation of the ending.

What I liked

Character development.  One of the great strengths of All Our Yesterdays is seeing the characters’ journey.  Through time travel timey wimey we meet three characters at two separate stages of their lives, Marina/Em, Finn and James.  We see how their experiences in a four-year period have changed them.

Through Em we see where Marina will end up if Em and Finn are unable to complete their task.  The Marina we meet at the beginning is, let’s face it, one of the most annoying, bratty teens in YA – think of an even more self involved Bella Swan – whereas Em is a YA heroine more in the Katniss or Tris Pryor mould.  The reader is then intrigued to learn what turned whiny Bella into Tris in just four short years.  It’s interesting to note that Em distances herself from Marina and sees her almost as a separate person whom she needs to protect.  She changes her name and cuts her hair to show this distance.

The older James, too, is very different from the earlier version we meet.  In contrast to Marina/Em though we see more flashes and hints of the man he will become.  I’m not certain how early on in the book James’ place in the police state was supposed to be apparent to the reader, but I picked up on it very quickly.

Of the three, Finn is the one who has changed the least in the four years.  Both younger and older versions of him are very practical, loyal and level headed.  There were a few times I wondered if he wasn’t another future Finn pretending to be younger Finn, but that is neither confirmed nor denied in this book.  What does change though is Marina’s/Em’s relationship with him.  That is interesting to watch develop, although that was done a little too quickly perhaps for my taste.

The writing style.  I really enjoyed Terrill’s writing style.  it is beautifully descriptive and very engaging.  A perfect example of this is that at one point our characters receive a phone call telling them that another character has died.  Nobody actually says the words, but from the setup and the characters’ reactions it’s perfectly clear what has happened.

What I didn’t like

Time travel is tricky.  In this book Terrill goes for the standard sci-fi trope of let’s kill Hitler (or at least the relevant evil mastermind) before he becomes evil in order to prevent an apocalypse.  Time travel narratives can be fraught with paradoxes and guns just happening to fail at the wrong moment.  I’m not 100% certain that Terrill had the whole concept perfectly under control.  Some of the explanations provided for anomalies and paradoxes seemed very vague and didn’t stand up to scrutiny.  It’s possible that they will be explained in far more depth in book two, so I am prepared to give her a pass on this.  I did have fun with the older Em and Finn having to pose as their younger selves though!

All in all, this is a great read and I loved it. Any weaknesses in the execution of the time travel concept are more than made up for by the writing and character development. I gave All Our Yesterdays four and half stars out of five.

 buy from Amazon, Kobo, iTunes

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