All Our Yesterdays: Cassandra Chronicles, Book 1

Book review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
All Our Yesterdays: Cassandra Chronicles, Book 1 Book Poster Image
Captivating sci-fi tackles time travel, politics, romance.

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age 13+
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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Readers will learn about physics and time travel and various scientific theories pertaining to time travel. The book addresses the time-travel paradox as well as the danger of totalitarian governments.

Positive Messages

All Our Yesterdays emphasizes the importance of unconditional love as well as realizing when a friend needs more help than you can offer. It also stresses the folly of thinking that one person can know what's best for society as a whole. There are some worthwhile lessons about self confidence and class issues.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Em and Finn are determined to fix the past to safeguard the future. Marina and Finn are both exemplary friends to James, who in turn is a good friend to Marina and Finn. Marina learns to stop judging others, particularly Finn, based on money and status. She also learns to value herself and not base her self-esteem on what other people think of her. Finn is funny, kind, protective, and selfless.

Violence

Both timelines in All Our Yesterdays feature a fair amount of violence. A ruthless doctor and his boss have young prisoners regularly tortured (usually electrocuted but also beaten, sometimes to the point of unconsciousness). Major characters are shot and killed, other characters are beaten and traumatized, and one commits suicide.

Sex

Two 20-year-olds spend the night together in a hotel, and although it's obvious they have sex, the scene isn't described in a graphic way (they wake up in each other's arms and get physical again). They share a few other passionate kisses. Two teens kiss and quickly begin to take off their tops, but their hookup is short-lived.

Language

Strong language isn't too frequent, but there are instances of "f--k," "s--t," "bitch," "a--hole," and insults such as "monster," "freak," "devil," "stupid," "jerk," etc.

Consumerism

Marina and James are both wealthy Washingtonians who attend(ed) the posh (and real) prep school Sidwell Friends (the Obama girls go there). Brands and car companies such as BMW, Mercedes, Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus are all mentioned.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Mentions of adults and teens drinking at high-school parties and grown-up events.

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.

User Reviews

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Teen, 14 years old Written byVenezia April 8, 2014

Exciting nonstop

Most books have one boring section but this one was exciting the entire time. Minor language was frequent if that's a concern. There are many plot twists i... Continue reading

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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