review: Yesterday is History by Kosoko Jackson

title: Yesterday is History
author: Kosoko Jackson
date: Sourcebooks; Feb 2020
main character: Andre Cobb
gay speculative fiction/time travel

Review is based on an advanced copy.

Kosoko Jackson’s website describes him as a “digital media specialist, focusing on digital storytelling, email, social and SMS marketing, and a freelance political journalist”. He’s worked in publishing for a while by providing sensitivity reads and promoting IPOC authors, particularly Black queer representations. While his name is not new to those in the young adult lit community, Yesterday is History is his YA debut.

His main character, Andre Cobb, is a gay Black male, a junior in high school and a recent recipient of a kidney transplant. That kidney had so many strings attached! It seems he was chosen by a rather wealthy family, the McIntyres, to receive the organ from their recently deceased son. The most important thing attached to that organ is the ability to time travel. Andre begins traveling back and forth, eventually through his own volition because he’s ‘tethered’ or emotionally tied to Michael. But, there’s also Blake McIntyre in the present. Andre has decisions to make!

Our protagonist has been given 3 mandates for time traveling: not to bring anything from the past into the present, do not change anything and do be seen by yourself in the past. You know when rules are given to teens in YA, they meant to be messed with.

What makes this book with such an original concept just an OK read? Too many details are left hanging. Kosoko has a thing in this story about asking questions, many important ones that never get answered. Andre attends a private high school. He’s a gifted student with a high GPA and a very promising future. His parents are both university faculty members, so education is important to them. I didn’t understand why Andre, an only child, is a scholarship student at his high school. If he’s on an academic scholarship, why is the school messing with his grades after his illness? Ah, the devil is in the details, isn’t she?

Jackson’s writing excels with dialogs. I wish the witty sarcasm and keen insights that characters engage inc could have been blended into more of the story. Who knows, perhaps we will see more of that in Jackson’s future writings. I mean, editors do know that Black people do wit and sarcasm, don’t they?

Yesterday is History is a fun and easy read. I cared about Andre and read late into the night to find out how things would work out for him. I look forward to Jackson’s  next novel.