A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
A few references to historical moments, like the Battle of South Mountain in 1862 or the Boston Massacre of 1770. The first American to die in the Boston Massacre, and thus the Revolutionary War, was a Black man named Crispus Attucks.
Love is love, and gay Black love stories are important and beautiful. Strong themes of found family, queer rights, positive representation of queer love. Listen to your heart, not your head. Sometimes what is best will hurt people in the short term. Sometimes what is in the past should be in the past, even if it hurts. Stand up for what is right but also be smart about being safe, not putting yourself in danger. Take advantage of genuine help offered.
Positive Role Models
Andre has been through hardships and "being Black in Boston." A queer Black teen and a cancer survivor, Andre is grounded as well as smart, inquisitive, emotionally open. He treats Michael and Blake with respect, admiration, love. He also comments on socioeconomic differences, notable historical moments for Black people, and kinds of racism he encounters. He wields his newfound ability with appropriate fear, maturity, respect, and carefulness. As a hero, Andre could become a formidable star character, jumping through time and space. Charming, smart, inquisitive, Andre is a great everyperson to get behind and root for. His parents are supportive, loving. Even the rich, White Claire and Blake are wholesome, positive people. Isobel, who's half-Japanese, is Andre's supportive and protective friend. Despite Michael's flaws, he's a free-spirited artist who genuinely loves Andre.
Violence & Scariness
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Some romantic kissing. Lots of hand-holding, interweaving of fingers, cuddling, thigh touching between teen boys. Two teen boys spoon on a bed. Some scenes with shirtless teen boys being romanticized and sexualized. A teen boy mentions watching porn. Parents ask their teen son if he's having sex.
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Strong language throughout includes, "Holy f--king s--t," "f--k," "f--king," "s--t," "bitch," "ass," "goddamn," "damn," "hell," and "Jesus!" as an exclamation. A young man almost calls a Black teen boy a "negro" but stops halfway.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
A 19-year-old boy drinks lots of alcohol and many times offers beer, wine, other alcoholic drinks to a younger teen boy. He also smokes marijuana and cigarettes, also offering these to the younger teen boy. A few times, they both drink and smoke together with no consequences. A young man in his late 20s appears drunk, volatile, and potentially violent.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Kosoko Jackson'sYesterday Is History is a young adult romance novel about a gay Black teen boy who's a cancer survivor and who stumbles into a great power: the ability to time travel. There are strong themes of love is love, found family, and responsibility. The story is a modern adventure, moving back and forth between the present day and 1969. This structure creates a distinct sense of the differences between now and then and especially as these differences pertain to race and sexuality, being gay and being Black in America. Andre, the hero, navigates identity, justice, and love in different time periods. Expect lots of teen romance, dates, and intimate conversations about feelings, hopes, and dreams. There's some romantic kissing, hand-holding, and cuddling, and a fair number of scenes with shirtless teen boys. A boy mentions he watches porn. A gay teen girl finds a father "hot." Many scenes show an older teen boy drinking alcohol, smoking marijuana, and smoking cigarettes, also offering them to Andre multiple times, with Andre accepting a few times. No drinking or smoking scenes lead to consequences. Lots of strong language includes "f--k," "s--t," "holy f--king s--t," "bitch," "ass," "goddamn," and "damn," and "Jesus!" as an exclamation.
Is It Any Good?
There's lots to celebrate here for the genre of queer young adult romance fiction. Yesterday Is History features a strong positive role model hero in time traveler Andre, and positive supporting characters accompanying him throughout his journey. Andre is also a great everyperson teen boy, eager and happy with his newly granted ability to time travel, but responsibly careful and ethically reflexive regarding its power and danger. Structurally, the different time periods provide a nice platform for Andre to comment on various differences and developments since 1969 in terms of civil rights, gay and queer rights, and women's rights. There are plenty welcome comments throughout that establish where Andre is coming from that include socioeconomic, racial, and sexual identity observations. The romance and love between both Andre and Michael and Andre and Blake feel genuine and different.
Some readers may be slightly disappointed that the only characters of color are Andre, really, in that his parents appear only briefly and his half-Japanese best friend, Isobel, is also barely in the novel. Andre's two love interests, Michael and Blake, are both White teen boys. First-time author Kosoko Jackson, who's African American, may have made Blake's family rich and White to make a point about how White privilege (and time travel) can lead to great wealth. Nevertheless, some readers still may feel a bit let down that both love interests and all the other primary characters in the book are White.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.