Yesterday Is History

Book review by
JK Sooja, Common Sense Media
Yesterday Is History Book Poster Image
Black teen time-travels to 1969 in fun, lean gay romance.

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

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.  

Positive Messages

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

Description of a teen dying in a car crash. Some brief, casual discussion of all the fighting and killing in the movies Kill Bill and Kill Bill 2. Some shoving and a few heated arguments. 

Sex

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.

Language

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.

Consumerism

References to Snickers candy bars, Coke, and Chipotle. Movies and TV shows mentioned: Kill Bill, Kill Bill 2, The Wolf of Wallstreet, Titanic, The TerminatorRiverdale. Also mentioned are Cardi B., Toyota Prius, National Public Radio, and the novel The Time Traveler's Wife.  

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. 

What 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. 

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What's the story?

In YESTERDAY IS HISTORY, Andre survives cancer and recovers with a new liver, given graciously to him by a rich, White, and powerful family in Boston. But something isn't quite right with this liver. Sometimes it hurts and pierces Andre with pain, and he wakes up in his house, but it's his house 50 years ago, in 1969. And a teen boy, like him, is always there. His name is Michael. Meanwhile, Claire, the mother of the boy donor whose liver is now in Andre, calls him up and wishes to chat. She has a son, Blake, and they want to teach Andre about a family secret. Should Andre trust this rich White family? Should Andre trust Michael? Blake? Where will this all lead Andre?  

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.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the queer romance genre in young adult novels. Do you think the love and romance in Yesterday Is History is good for the genre? Why, or why not? How realistic and believable did you find the love between Andre and his two friends, and why might this be important? 

  • Between Michael and Blake, which one do you think Andre had the truest connection with? Why?

  • What did you think of the level of strong language in the book? Did it make the dialogue feel more realistic? Why, or why not?

  • How about all the drinking and smoking in the novel? Do you think it was necessary to depict the character of Michael? What would his character have looked like without all the cigarettes, drugs, and drinking? Why do you think Michael did all those things? 

Book details

  • Author: Kosoko Jackson
  • Genre: Romance
  • Book type: Fiction
  • Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
  • Publication date: February 2, 2021
  • Publisher's recommended age(s): 14 - 18
  • Number of pages: 320
  • Available on: Nook, Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
  • Last updated: March 4, 2021

Our editors recommend

For kids who love teen romance and LGBTQ+ stories

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