Quill and Quire

Canada's magazine of book news and reviews

Yesterday

by C.K. Kelly Martin

The premise of C.K. Kelly Martin’s new novel revolves around a disastrous future world that is beset by a terrifying plague. While it may sound like yet another addition to the rash of dystopian fiction flooding the YA market, it couldn’t be more different. A satisfying, original blend of time-travel thriller, science fiction, and romance, this white-knuckle read is more Jason Bourne than Katniss Everdeen.

It is 1985 and 16-year-old Freya Kallas has just moved to Toronto with her mother and sister following her father’s supposed death in a freak explosion. Fitting in at a new school is hard, but Freya feels her sense of detachment and constant headaches must point to some larger problem. After experiencing an intense connection with Garren, a striking 18-year-old stranger, she begins to unravel the meaning behind her strange symptoms and discovers her father’s true whereabouts: the future of 2063, where he is alive and well. 

The world of 2063 is dominated by a United North America, robots, “gushi” (immersive virtual reality), and eco-terrorism. Disease has largely been eradicated, but Freya and Garren have both been sent back in time by their parents during a catastrophic outbreak of a new rabies-like illness. Now they are on the run from officials from the future who want to “wipe and cover” their memories for good.

The majority of the novel is set in 1985, which allows the author to indulge in more than kitschy references to MacGyver. Being on the run without a cell phone or Internet access proves much more suspenseful than a contemporary chase would. Freya and Garren’s romance is also reminiscent of a cinematic thriller, as the pair’s intense relationship is (almost) consummated in a satisfyingly steamy scene.

Sadly, the book’s jacket copy gives away far too much of the plot, revealing the truth about Freya’s time travelling, a mystery she does not piece together until 200 pages into the novel. Readers may feel frustrated by Freya’s incessant search for knowledge they already possess. But stripped of its dust jacket, Yesterday offers an action-packed thrill ride for readers who want their dystopia on the side.