Yesterday is History by Kosoko Jackson
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
“A romantic, heart-felt, and whimsical YA novel about letting go of the past, figuring out what you want in your future, and staying in the moment before it passes you by.
Andre Cobb hopes his luck is finally turning around. After being sick for as long as he can remember, he’s finally gotten the liver transplant he desperately needed. Now his life can finally begin. But weeks after the operation, he feels shaky and ill, passes out, and wakes up somewhere totally unexpected…the past. Somehow, he’s slipped through time to the 1960s version of his neighborhood in Boston. While there he meets Michael, who he is instantly connected to. Michael is everything Andre is not. He’s free-spirited, artistic, and open to all of life’s possibilities. But just as suddenly as he arrived, Andre slips back to present-day Boston. As he tries to figure out what happened, the family of his donor reaches out to let him know his new liver may have side effects… of the time travel variety. They task their youngest son, Blake, with the job of helping Andre figure out the ins and outs of his new ability. As Andre trains with Blake, he can’t help but feel attracted to him. Blake understands Andre in a way no one else ever has. But every time Andre journeys to the past, he’s drawn back into to Michael’s world. Torn between two boys, one in the past and one in the present, Andre has to figure out where he belongs and more importantly who he wants to be before the consequences of jumping in time catch up to him and changes his fate for good.”
With that synopsis, I had high hopes for Yesterday is History. Unfortunately, a number of things distracted me while reading this book. While the main character was a Black teen from Boston, there wasn’t much description of what that looked like for him in the present day and his understanding of race in Boston’s past. The author alluded to it multiple times, but never actually explained it. As a teen/young adult book, leaving out that context left the story a bit shallow. Aside from his mention of the closest T stop, Jackson doesn’t create a sense of place before or after the time travel. It’s all focused on Michael, the tether from the past.
The book describes Michael as magnetic, but it doesn’t spend enough time on his personality and experiences with Andre for that to make sense. It seems as though Andre spends an accumulation of 3-4 days with Michael and suddenly they are romantically connected.
I had the same issue with Blake. He goes from angsty to romantic in a short period of time without a transition or explanation in between. The rest of my issues with this book had to do with the fact that Andrew’s “best friend“ is barely with him and the author uses similar turns of phrase repeatedly.
While these points were annoying for me, I found the concept and cover art to be really cool. This book could have been a lot better if it was longer in order to add more character development and time travel. It would also need more editing.
While I love to support Black authors (especially Queer Black authors), I can’t really recommend this book as it wasn’t satisfactory for me.