Sunday, December 29, 2013

Time Travel Done Right

Let's skip over my long absence, and please don't expect a year-end post because not today.  Let me just give a quick shout out to the best book I've read this month, just what a lot more books should be: All Our Yesterdays, by Cristin Terrill.

Time travel narratives can rarely stand close deconstruction, and there's almost always some "wibbly wobbly timey wimey" hand waving to make things go smoothly.  All I ask is that you explain the rules and then stick to them: check.

 You've got all kind of sort of things here that might drive me nuts--there's kind of a sort of love triangle, but oh, it's not like that.  There are so many kinds of love  here, just among the few main characters--siblings and like-siblings, parents and like-parents, crushes and longings and necessary-friendship-has-brought-us-together.  They're all sensitive and complicated.  Marina knows full well her parents are useless as parents, but it still breaks her heart anew whenever they fail to come through for her.  Her best friend's brother and guardian is an amazing guy and knows his brother's friends and has inside jokes with them.  It's so real.

It grabs you at the beginning--Em is trapped in a cell, periodically tortured, thinking about escape, her only companion a voice from the next cell through the vent.  A hidden message, an escape, a time machine, and the story unfolds, in the present and in the past to which she travels.  You get enough information that you're not confused, but there are plenty of secrets.

And thank you, Cristin Terrill, for not making your suspense depend on keeping secrets that we all figured out early on.  With an author I've never read, I always worry--once I figure something out, are they going to pretend or assume that I don't know this until it's the big reveal at the end?  No, no--there are plenty of reveals, all along the path.  Yeah, I knew who was what early on (mostly), but there were more surprises.

A lot of the sense of the story relies on awkward emotional truths--basically, on a determined but really unhappy about it assassin.  At first, the whole "can't bring myself to do it" thing worried me, but god, do you remember that really good friend of yours that you once had a crush on--no, loved--who was so wonderful to you, but just so obviously didn't see you that way that you never even said anything?  But you hoped, and you accidentally leaned against them sometimes, and god, if only they'd see?  Yeah, I am so right there with you, Cristin Terrill and Team All Our Yesterdays.

There will be a sequel.  It does not need one.  This book made me really happy.

Update: 12/30: I am editing this post because I left out my favorite thing about the book! So, so many books about big world changers ignore the dark side of this stuff, the moral ambiguity that exists when the world is going to change.  Everyone wants to make the world better, but the stakes are already so high that there's no way for that to happen without something ugly taking place.  That recognition is what makes the bad guy bad AND what makes the good guys good.  I have so much respect for this complexity.  So I wanted to add that.


Lianna Williamson said...

Ooh, I'm excited! This is on my TBR list, but my library doesn't have it yet.

Aarti said...

This sounds good! I generally am not super into time travel in books because it can get so complicated! But if Terrill does it well...