A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that All Our Yesterdays is the first in the Cassandra Chronicles sci-fi time-travel series, which follows three characters in the present and in a dystopian near future. There's a good bit of violence in the form of imprisonment, torture, beatings, shootings, and suicide. One timeline features a complicated love triangle, another includes two 20-year-olds having sex for the first time. Language is occasionally strong ("f--k," "s--t," "a--hole," and more) but not overly frequent. The book brings up lots of issues about friendship, obsession, loyalty and the implications of trying to change the past.
What's the story?
Cristin Terrill's first novel ALL OUR YESTERDAYS starts out in a prison cell, where a nefarious doctor keeps Em in solitary confinement and has her routinely tortured for information. Her only company is Finn, the guy in the cell next door. Obsessed with a drain in the middle of the floor, Em pries it open to find a to-do list written in her own handwriting with only one ominous task left to complete. To fulfill her dangerous mission, she and Finn must risk their lives to travel back in time. They arrive in the past, where wealthy 16-year-old Marina is hopelessly in love with her neighbor and best friend James, a physics prodigy from a political family. When tragedy strikes, Em and Finn have only a few days to stop a series of events that leads to the creation of the time machine and a totalitarian regime.
Is it any good?
Terrill's debut is an impressive page-turner that explores how tragedy and the desperate desire to fix the past can consume people. The book's two time settings also make it clear how much people can change in just a few years, from adolescence to early adulthood. Em at 20 -- who has survived the unthinkable and doesn't take anything for granted -- doesn't have much in common with her entitled, snobbish 16-year-old self, but her sense of loyalty and her desire to protect the people she loves remain steadfast parts of her character.
Although time-travel plots can get bogged down in the time travel paradox, Terrill explains it away and let's you get caught up in the characters -- both the worldly older versions and the clueless younger versions. She manages to pack in commentary about class (James and Marina are both rich Washington D.C. kids while their prep-school friend Finn is a scholarship student from the 'hood), ethics, and politics. Lest you think it's too heavy a read, Terrill also weaves in two different but equally compelling romantic story arcs featuring a remarkably funny, sweet, and sensitive guy who proves that there's much more to a person than meets the eye.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the complexity of time-travel stories. What makes them both compelling and frustrating? What are some of your favorite time-travel novels and movies?
How are class and wealth depicted as a divisive force? Why is Marina so oblivious to the life of the less privileged?
What do you think future installments of the series should explore? Does this first book work as a stand-alone novel?
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