Joelene Reviews: Cristin Terrill's - "All Our Yesterdays"

Terril_all our yesterdaysFor months Em has been locked in a cell with only a mysterious drain and the voice of the boy she loves to focus on. Sometimes that voice is screaming in pain, but mostly it’s saying things that still make her laugh in this bleak, concrete prison. Time, however, is running out for them, unless they can find a way to steal some back.

Marina is used to getting the things that she wants, but not the people. Her parents have long since given up on using her as anything but a communication device in their increasingly acrimonious marriage. It seems as though James, the boy she loves, will always think of her as a little sister while his new friend, Finn, is increasingly encroaching on their time together. All of that was yesterday though. Today Em is on her way and, if her plan works, any hope Marina has with James will be shattered beyond repair.

The premise of All Our Yesterdays is not new; if you could go back and kill someone evil before they did anything evil, would you be able to? It is the kind of question with so many grey areas that it can be explored over and over again and, with an amazing ensemble of characters, Cristin Terrill has brought an exciting, fresh twist to the concept. Rather than the evil being a generic, unspecified individual, he is someone that the two main characters know well in both his pre and post evil stages.

The strongest aspect of this novel is its moral ambiguity. Rather than evil being absolute, it is treated as a spectrum. Good isn’t a cut and dried concept either. Both good and evil are paths that the characters choose, often unwittingly. There’s depth and complexity in this notion that translates surprisingly well to the novel without slowing it down.

The continuity of timelines is clear and well-thought out, making what could easily be a baffling novel into something that flows with ease. Em’s character is not quite so consistent. From the outset her goal is to kill James, making the future world a better place. Though she must know that it may come down to her, she’s woefully unprepared for it, not even keeping up her fitness levels when she has ample opportunity. The fact that she’s torn about killing her former best friend is the core of this novel. Without it, the story would lose not only its suspense but its humanity. That she throws away every chance she has of completing her quest without analysing or changing her behaviour, however, weakens an otherwise compelling character.

All Our Yesterdays is told from both Marina and Em’s perspectives in the present and future. This would usually bother me, but Terrill’s writing is strong enough to draw you in, and her characters are so wonderfully imagined that their voices are very different. Marina is wealthy and self-centred but unsure of everyone around her. Em is sure of Finn but not of her future or his. In their own ways, they’re both desperate, vulnerable, and addictively readable.

All Our Yesterdays is wonderfully written, cleverly plotted, and emotionally wrenching. From the first few chapters I really didn’t think that I would enjoy it, but it really draws you in, snaring you so that putting it down is unbearable. According to Terrill, this is the first book of a duology, so there’ll be one more in the series. Even though I devoured the first book, I don’t know how I feel about a second. The ending to All Our Yesterdays was absolutely perfect: unexpected but exactly what the novel had been building towards all along. It stands so well on its own that, bittersweet and forlorn as the ending may be,  a sequel seems superfluous, but I’ll be reading it anyway.


 All Our Yesterdays – Cristin Terrill

 Bloomsbury (September 3, 2013)

 ISBN: 9781408835197

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