Monday, August 26, 2013
Review: All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill
Review: All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill
Release date: September 3rd, 2013
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Series: YES. #1 in the Cassandra Chronicles
Source: Purchased through jet-setting wizardry
Rating: Wibbley-wobbley, timey-wimey WONDERFUL
"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.
The cover: MILES better than my hideous UK cover. This book went through a lot of versions, but ultimately I like the one they settled on. It's arresting and implies timey wimey stuff with the clock.
The story: I knew I was getting into some time-traveling craziness with this one. What I didn't expect was how this book would make me feel. I felt all the things while reading this, even when I was confused, and even more so when all the puzzle pieces click together to form one horrifying picture.
We first meet Em, a tough-as-nails girl, imprisoned in a cell and routinely tortured. She's locked up next to a boy, Finn, whom she cares about immensely and who cares about her. Em has a strange feeling about the drain in her cell, and once she cracks it open, she finds a crumpled piece of notebook paper with fourteen crossed out lines written in her handwriting. Only the last line is not crossed out:
You have to kill him.
The crossed-out lines were left by fourteen other versions of Em, who went back in time and failed every time to stop the advent of time travel. This time, Em and Finn have to go back four years and kill the doctor--the evil madman who has imprisoned them--before he develops the machine that will doom the world. But it just so happens that "the doctor" is someone they knew and loved four years ago... and someone their four-years-ago selves will do anything to protect.
This is a difficult book to talk about, since I don't want to spoil ANYTHING. Part of the wonderfulness of this book is slowly accumulating all the bits of information you need to make this circular plot fit together, where time isn't linear and events are bent and characters become entirely different people because of the experiences they may or may not have. Your brain will hurt, but it will all make sense.
Em and Finn go back in time to kill the doctor, and then the narrative adds another first person voice: Marina, aka Em four years ago. Marina is a difficult character. She's sheltered, insecure, and madly in love with her best friend, James. She's cruel to four-years-ago Finn, who I love more than life, so that was tough to take. (Seriously, Finn is the best character in the whole book. Also, is there a law that all YA books need boys named Finn in them?) What makes you truly love Marina is Em's feelings for her. Em sees her younger self almost like a younger sister. She wants to protect her and keep her from feeling any more pain. More than anything, she wants to alter the past to spare her the horrific future that's in store for her. She wants to make it so Marina never becomes Em.
Em and Future-Finn are joining the list of my ultimate fictional ships. Also, by extension, Marina and Past-Finn. Finn and Em give me all the feels ever. And James is exactly the fascinating, intellectual mystery of a boy he's meant to be, both endearing and unnerving. The plot never lets up. I've heard some books described as a "thriller" that never really thrilled, but boy, does All Our Yesterdays thrill. I spent so much of this book going, "Eeeeeeep!" The plot is tight and action-packed, but never zooms so fast that it loses your or the relationships. Perhaps Marina figures a few things out a little too easily, but whatever, she's a smart girl, and I'm willing to go with it because the rest of the writing was just so wonderful.
There's something both heartbreaking and glorious, both satisfying and unsatisfying, about books where certain realities get erased. What did happen, and what didn't? Did all those fourteen Ems and Finns really exist? Did the love they feel really happen? SOBS EVERYWHERE, you guys. JUST SOBS. To see the Em that Marina becomes, strong and fiery and passionate... would she still become that person if Em and Finn succeed? So many questions! So many thoughts! So much PAIN for me! There's a melancholy, almost bittersweet strain throughout this book, because to save the world, Em and Finn have to destroy two of the things that are the most important to them. And most of all, they have to devastate their younger, more innocent selves. Oh, crap, I'm crying again.
I am curious about the fact that there will be a sequel. Now, when I read this, I thought it was a standalone, and it certainly reads like one. I'm actually extremely confused about how there can be a sequel. The story wrapped up extremely well. I mean, I'll be glad to see certain characters again, that's for sure. But I prefer knowing going in that a book is going to be part of a series.
Ugh, this book. I needed a book to savage my soul, and this one did that brilliantly. If you're dubious about time travell-y stuff, I'd recommend giving AOY a shot.