Title: All Our Yesterdays
Genre: YA Science Fiction
Received for Review from NetGalley
Summary (from Goodreads)
What would you change?
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 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, and with it, Marina’s hopes for their future. 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. Em and Marina are in a race against time that only one of them can win.
As anyone who reads my reviews regularly will know, I’m a huge fan of time travel stories. I love the way they mess with your head and fold back on themselves in clever ways. A good time travel story can keep me turning pages long after I might have otherwise stopped reading in order to do other vital things, like eat.
And this is a good time travel story, though it’s very science-life. There’s some suggestion of a theory about Time and sentience and how that means that paradoxes are less of an issue, but it’s more of a handwavium way to get rid of some of the problematic issues of time travel narratives – such as characters preventing their past selves doing something in a timeline, and therefore making it so that they never should have existed to do the preventing in the first place. I never really think too hard about that sort of thing (though I love a really clever time travel story that makes you go ‘OH, that’s how that all worked’ by the end) so I didn’t really worry too much about the continuity of the science stuff.
Anyone who’s familiar with the tropes of time travel stories will have the bulk of the plot of this figured out pretty quickly. It’s basically Terminator style someone goes back in time to kill someone, someone else goes back to protect them. There are a few twists and turns that I didn’t expect, and I loved a couple of the ideas explored. Particularly the idea of a list of things that the character has already tried to achieve, each time leading to the same situation until there’s only one option left (talk about setting stakes REALLY high) and the idea of a character going back in time to prevent something, then going back to make it happen over and over again in a cycle – proving that you can’t make things perfect, even if you do change things. In fact, some of the psychology of certain characters was particularly engrossing and gripping. I totally got the doctor as a character, and how he became the person he was.
I did question how the ending worked a little, though I can’t really discuss that without spoiling. Needless to say, by that point, I’d enjoyed all the rest of the journey so much that the slightly sweet ending, while a little easy, didn’t detract from my enormous enjoyment of the ride.