"I didn't remotely understand that."
"Yeah," I say. "Could you use smaller words?"
"Those WERE my smaller words."
I don't know, it just felt like too much work for me to like this book.
And I am of the opinion that reading should be fun. That it shouldn't feel like I need a real time, interactive diagram (or dear lord a Powerpoint presentation) just to keep track of what's going on and how I should feel about a particular character.
I feel like my ties and affinity for the characters were in the backseat and science fiction is riding shotgun talking its head off and I have to pause and give some effort, connect a couple of dots, make sense of some lines in order for me to get the proper impact of the scenes.
This was told in alternate POVs of Em (from the future) and Marina. Em escapes from a prison cell with her friend Finn to go back in time to kill The Doctor who has been torturing them for information and has set the world to chaos by inventing a time machine. The timeline shifts between the four year gap between the two characters with Marina's told in linear continuity while Em's are interspersed with recollections out of chronology of her time with Finn as fugitives and prisoners.
Yeah, it's a handful.
I'm always wary of time travel in books. If it's tackled from a fantasy perspective I don't mind so much because it doesn't ask me to make sense out of anything because, you know, it's magic. But when it's sci-fi time travel… I know I'm just asking for a headache. Because no matter how hard I try to just roll with all the science-ness thrown at me, I have to understand it. It's probably the subliminal pride of a science major in me.
Then I remember how physics pwned me back in college and I just feel plain sad.
Then I take into account that this book also has to build the foundations of the friendship between Marina, James and Finn and work in a love angle somewhere in there, and some family issues and suspense…
… and I felt the author's efforts were just spread too thin in all those aspects.
But what's most disappointing was, when I did get around to think about it, I was only mildly affected by any of the characters. There was a palpable lack of charm and even with Finn, who should be the character that everyone would anchor easily to, it felt like a struggle at times for me.
Marina (the past Em) should be the somewhat emotional fulcrum of this story but I really couldn't find it in my heart to like her. She's haughty, self-centered, judgmental and shallow. All of which her future self owned up to… but was still intent on preserving.
I still don't want to die, but Marina will live. That fierce, loyal, innocent girl who just wants someone to love will get the life I never had, and that's more than enough.
Which I really liked. That she came back in time not for Finn, not for James and not to save the world but to save herself. selfish, yes but extremely relatable.
But the message of self-love that it was trying to cut across is coming out mixed to me. Because from Marina's POVs, the fierce, loyal and innocent girl Em was talking about (yes that was extremely confusing, I know) came across as an arrogant, insecure lovefool for a good stretch of the story. And I don't know if I want Marina to love all of that because it poses such a threat to personal growth in my opinion. We have to start somewhere to get to where we are and its something we have to discover all on our own, to learn from our mistakes. I feel conflicted with being contented at who you are at such a young point in your life and I believe this message could have been qualified better. Certainly not in a setting where time and space continuity is a chore to follow already.
I tell her she’s beautiful and perfect and she’s going to be okay. I tell her she doesn’t need to change herself to fit in with shallow girls or to matter to someone. I tell her everything I wish I had ever known. I tell her I love her, and I realize as I say it that I love me, too.
I found the foundation of her feelings towards James vastly lacking and shallow which just irritated me beyond words with all her hesitation over killing him as Em. I liked how her relationship with Finn evolved because I'm a sucker for that trope though as a character, Finn was still underdeveloped for my tastes.
The pacing was pretty intense and I'm actually disappointed with how much the blurb revealed on this one because I find some of those details would've been better left to be discovered by the reader as the plot unfolded. I found the climax very well done though Em's reveal to James was pretty obvious early on. I think it was the one time in the book that I didn't have to exert any effort to feel anything.
So my experience with All Our Yesterdays was a cycle of interest, wonder (over the clever way the story was being told), confusion, intense frustration THEN intense emotion towards the end.
Somebody smart once said, it's the trip, not the destination . And while it might just be a case of this book being too smart for me, I can't feel but be a little disappointed that the ride wasn't as enjoyable as I thought it would be.