I came here to keep in touch with all my friends who left GR after the censorship debacle. I read a little of every genre. I co-blog at Musings of a Bibliomaniac.
Is it just me or does All Our Yesterdays have a distinctly cinematic flavor? I feel like I've just sat through a fast-paced movie about time travel and two people on the run trying to save the world. I'm not sure if that's a good thing but it kept me interested and intrigued till the very end, which is more than I can say about most YA books. And considering this is a debut, I'd say that's an impressive accomplishment.
Em and Finn escape from a prison cell and travel 4 years back in time to prevent the world from becoming what it has due to the misuse of time travel. This is their 14th attempt to save the world, and their plan this time is to kill the "doctor" who invented the time machine. But the doctor in the future is their best friend in the past. So Em and Finn are actually on a mission to kill someone they both once loved, and in some small measure, still do.
The things that stand out in All Our Yesterdays are pacing, characters and plot, in that order.
The chapters are alternately narrated by Em, who has come from the future, and Marina, who is the younger version of Em in the present time zone. Em knows everything that Marina is yet to find out so by constantly switching from one to another, Terrill not only manages to reveal the story one piece at a time but also builds up a mad sense of urgency. I was never bored while reading and even when the romance bits were underway, the pace did not dwindle.
Having the future and present versions of the same character in the same frame carries the risk of creating a disconnect between them. But Terrill's protagonists are just so well-etched. As different as Marina is from Em, I could tell they were both the same person with individual perspectives warped by time. This also applies to Finn, who, irrespective of time-zones, is a complete sweetheart.
The only character I had issues with is James a.k.a the doctor. While the James we meet is a complicated young boy, he's also drastically different from the future version, who only appears toward the end. I'm not convinced someone can change so much in 4 years.
The plot is pretty ambitious for YA and a little far-fetched (for starters, you must assume that all security personnel are stupid enough to be continuously outsmarted by a bunch of teenagers) but I liked it. Time travel is not used as a mere plot gimmick in the story, it is the story. Even though there is a fair bit of romance, it does not out-weigh the sci-fi element.
However, the plot focuses only on the present and the future. What happens in between is not explained. Just like I don't see how James could possibly become the doctor, I don't get how the world could possibly change so much in 4 measly years.
There are many brain-bending paradoxes about time that I'm sure must have holes but I'm too intimidated to try and explore them. It took me some effort just to understand the ending. The thing with time-travel is that it's hypothetical. We don't know how it works. How do you fault the kind of logic that doesn't exist?
Overall, All Our Yesterdays was an exciting read and one of the better YA sci-fi offerings this year. It definitely works as a standalone, so I don't see the need for a sequel.
3.5 well-earned stars for an impressive debut.
*With thanks to Netgalley for the free digital copy*