book review: Yesterday by Felicia Yap

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YESTERDAY by Felicia Yap
★★
Mulholland Books, August 1, 2017

This book enticed me with its unique premise. In the world that Felicia Yap depicts in Yesterday, society is divided into two groups: the majority, Monos, who only have a day’s worth of memories, and the elite Duos, who can remember up to two days. When a woman is found dead, the detective on the case is literally racing against time to solve the mystery before his memory resets itself. When I read the summary, it reminded me a bit of the Nolan film Memento, which I love, so I decided to give it a shot. Unfortunately, it was a major letdown.

My first major disappointment with this book came when I realized that Yap hadn’t created a futuristic universe, but rather, a sort of half-baked parallel one. The events in this story take place in 2015… just a different 2015, where people have limited memories. But Virginia Woolf was still a writer, Quentin Tarantino is still making movies, and Steve Jobs is still patenting Apple products. It doesn’t make any sense, and it feels lazy, like Yap took the easy road rather than putting sufficient effort into the world building. Am I really supposed to believe that civilization would have developed at the exact same rate with this massive neurological deviation?

The characters have this handy device called the iDiary, in which they record their activities each day, and which they can peruse at their leisure to recall details. Characters say things like ‘According to my diary, I think she’s a very nice woman’ and ‘According to my diary, I saw them have a fight last week.’ So even though they can’t ‘remember’ everything, they still have easy access to information, and the memory twist starts to feel more like a gimmick than a quintessential thread that holds the story together. Why does it matter that they can’t remember, when they have the information at their fingertips anyway?

The mystery itself is bland and uninteresting. Without the memory twist, is there much of a story here? Not really. It’s just window dressing. So with that in mind, what does this book have to offer? Not much. The characters are boring and paper thin, the writing is clumsy and amateur… There’s nothing here that’s noteworthy except for the premise, which is never utilized to its full potential. I’m glad I stuck with it, because it picks up steam about halfway through, but I have to admit I was quite relieved when I finished.

I received a copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to Netgalley, Mulholland Books, and Felicia Yap.

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