“I tell her everything I wish I had ever known. I tell her I love her, and I realize as I say it that I love me, too.”
All Our Yesterdays traces the stories of Marina and Em. Em found herself being repeatedly transported back to a dingy jail cell. Yet this time, she is determined for it this to not repeat again. In this exact jail cell, she finds a note written by her stuck to a drain. She has no memory of writing it, except that she knows she has a quest left behind by all the previous times she was being transported back to the cell. She has to do whatever it takes to stop James, a prodigy in science, from creating a time machine capable of changing history bring about the possibility of a worldwide apocalypse. Parallel to Em, Marina, Em’s younger self has a different story. She would give it her all in protecting her best friend, James, even after she had learnt about James’ darkest secret. They were never supposed to meet but with the creation of the time machine, the past and present intertwines into two parallel yet connected goals, where only one party can succeed. All Our Yesterdays is a reflection of love, a hope for the future, and a priceless opportunity for self-discovery. Many have also praised Terrill’s novel as a story about ‘the infinite complications of our every choice’.
After reading till the very last word of this novel, I found myself unable to return to reality and it really felt as if time had stopped. It is a fast-paced novel as it is a race against time. The narrative dragged me in instantly and was constantly giving me surprises as the plot never failed to develop and factor in twists at the most strategic points in the story. It was also interesting how it was narrated in first person, and the overlapping events narrated turned out very differently from two different perspectives. What was most satisfying about finishing the book was that it turned out to be different and even better than my initial impression of it. The idea and fragility of time travel and manipulation of time intrigued me when I first picked this book out of other books on the shelf. However, as the storyline quickly catapulted me into Marina and Em’s story, I realised that the essence of the story goes much deeper than the sci-fi aspect of it as well – Terrill’s debut shone as it presented complex human emotions throughout the entire novel, and every word she penned had a raw emotional quality to it. This novel is one unlike any other as the essence of the story does not really lie in the facts about time, but in the effects time travel might possibly bring to human beings if this does come true in the near future.
Although the theories and rules of time travel can lead to confusion at some points in time, it does not compromise the overall quality of the story because while it might be a sci-fi adventure novel, stitched into it is also a tinge of sentimentality that is very well represented through the way Em looks at Marina and discovers so much more about herself. This also accurately reflects how we feel all the time – how we often look back and hope that we can turn back time to undo or redo what we hope we should not have done, or the hope that we should not have been so naive. Out of the dozens of books I have managed to read over the holidays, this book left the deepest and most lasting impression in my mind. There is only one word for this novel – mind blowing – but even this is not enough to do justice to a great book with such rich emotions encompassed in every word of this novel. This book is certainly worth your time and sometimes even worth the heartbreak to read. Thus, I would definitely urge you to check this book out of the library whenever you can!
Renee Ong (3U)