Publication Date: September 3, 2013
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Reading Level: Young Adult, 12+
Pages: 362 (ARC)
Source: From Publisher for Review
"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.
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.
This is, perhaps, the most solid debut I have come across in a while. Terrill has me completely reeling after reading her book. This book is full of so much action and adventure due to its fast pace and it's made it hard to fully return to reality right now.
All of this was possible because Terrill gives us such a unique take on the potentially overdone sci-fi concept of time travel. I have to say that her story, the creation of the machine, and the mechanics behind it as well as the concept of paradoxes and changing the future and present were all extremely well done in ways that were new to me. They were not only unique and believable and while I was in this world, I feared for how time travel could ruin the world so easily. I also enjoyed how her unique processes led to repeated mind-fuckery that never ceased to blow me away and leave me speechless.
But, in all honesty, this book was entirely character driven. The book is told between two perspectives: Marina and Em. Em is from the future, Marina is from the present. And through them both we see the unfortunate and surprising events in Marina's rich, wonderful world that led to the desolate and almost-dystopian future fours years later that Em comes from.
Let's start with Em. I loved her so much. She's a really nice girl, though seemingly potentially insane in the beginning of the book. She's willing to sacrifice herself and her well-being to go into the past and save the world. She's a good girl inadvertently tasked with the terrible deed of killing the man that will ruin the world as we know it. It's very easy to connect with her because she's fighting the feelings of past her buried deep with the knowledge and hatred she's consumed with from her present (which is the future). It was a rather interesting twist to her story that easily kept us on our toes because we were never sure which way she would sway during certain moments.
Em also made us think, and I love books that get the gears working in my head. She makes you question the act of pointing a gun at an innocent. You know that he's going to change the world for the worst, but at this point in his life such a thing has not yet begun. He's a young boy looking to change the world for good, he has not yet been corrupted, so how can you do such a thing? On the other hand, if you don't kill him now, the future will remain the same. The battle between right and wrong was so real to me and I applaud Terrill for making my emotional connection with her characters seem so raw. She made me feel grief, happiness, anger, sadness, hatred, and overall defeat. I was truly all over the place with this one emotionally.
Most importantly, I loved Em's connection with Finn. Finn was the boy who was on the run with her. When they got captured and put into the facility, they were locked in adjoining cells. They spoke to each other through a small grate in the cement wall, though they haven't seen each other for months. All they had was the others voice and that's what kept them sane, just as hearing the other scream when being tortured caused them immense misery. To see such a strong connection blossom into love over time was beautiful. This was a believable romance that had quite a bit of sacrifice, which made the book breathtakingly real and powerful. I'd love to have my own Finn.
Then there's Marina from the present. She's slightly shallow and misguided. Her best friends aren't really that great of friends. That is everyone besides James. James is the young genius next door. He's awkward and introverted and only has one other friend aside from Marina. Marina is hopelessly in love with him and watching him suffers causes her to suffer. Throughout the few days that they spend together in this book, you watch him struggle with sanity because of the immense trauma he experiences. In turn, you watch Marina slowly realize that her devotion to him almost resembles that of a lost, sick puppy. She's shallow and vain without meaning to be. But I have to admit that James's character arc blew me away. He wants to save the world, but his own personal bubble is quickly crumbling around him.
Initially, I thought that some of the big reveals near the beginning of the book were too easy to figure out. But then, upon reflection, I realized that such a thing was done on purpose. Most events were foreshadowed perfectly so that you saw them coming in the back of your mind, but you just didn't think they were possible and when they happened you were still completely shell-shocked and gaping like a fish out of water. The reveal of certain characters connections to others was done perfectly and though some reveals were easy to infer, others were not.
And then there's the ending. It's bittersweet, perfectly imperfect. It is just what the book needed but all wrong at the same time. I never saw it coming, but I couldn't have asked for anything better. It makes your heart swell with joy just as fast as it plummets to your stomach. It is a paradox, and it is the bang! that this story deserves. It makes the slew of sacrifices made in this book worth it.
Most importantly, it's full of promise. It makes me anxious and eager to see the next wonderful little masterpiece Terill will turn out for us. Trust me when I say this, she is a debut author to look out for.
Disclaimer: I did not receive any form of compensation in return for this honest review.