All Our Yesterdays
by Cristin Terrill
Review by Gayle Surrette
Disney Hyperion Hardcover/ eBook ISBN/ITEM#: 9781423176374
Date: 03 September 2013
All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill is a time travel novel. It begins with Em. She's in a concrete cell. She talks to the male in the next cell. Other than the guards and the sadistic man, the doctor, who orders her torture, there is very little human contact. The voice from the next cell is her touchstone to sanity. The drain in the floor contains a list, written in her own hand, that she's never seen before, that notes things she's done. More frightening is the notation, "you have to kill him".
Alternating chapters are narrated by Marina, a girl living in an affluent neighborhood who goes to a private school and is in love with the boy genius, James, who lives next door. James is already in college while Marina and James' best friend, Finn, are in high school. When tragedy strikes, Marina and Finn try to help James cope.
Marina and Em very different in how they react to their environment. Em is cautious, controlled, and totally focus on what she believes is her mission – to change the past and erase the future she lives in. The only person Em can trust completely is the boy in the next cell. Marina, on the other hand, lacks self-confidence and tends to be a follower rather than a leader. She's built her life around James, trying to be what he needs her to be while hoping that someday he'll notice her as more than a friend.
The two narrative threads eventually begin to come together in what, for some readers, may be a total surprise, but for others may be the only way it could have made sense. Their two lives, Em's and Marina's, are one of desperation and the other of affluence and going from one to the other is a bit disconcerting at times.
There's a lot of emotional tension in All Our Yesterdays and not all of it is raised by knowing that Em has been tortured. The world Em lives in resembles some of the worst nightmares of war torn countries that you see in nightly news programs. This is not an easy story to read as the tension, violence, and emotional toll on the characters can be hard to handle at times. The characters are well drawn and, at first, may seem to be flat but as you get into the story they become more than they seemed at first.
The book was hard to put down even when things got dark. Em had a lot on the line. If she's successful in changing the past, she'll cease to exist. And yet, she tries over and over and over. Will she succeed finally, and what will actually happen if she does? It's the answers to that question that keeps you reading.