Title: 13 Minutes
Author: Sara Pinborough
Genre: Teen, Young Adult, Mystery, Contemporary
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
13 Minutes was not quite was I was expecting.
The first 65% is about what I was anticipating. Which was a mysterious almost death by a teen which takes a criminal offense and puts it in the middle of high school drama.
There are two main perspectives in this book with occasional glimpses into others minds. The two are of the gal who almost dies and those of her ex-best friend. I enjoyed the ex-best friend the best; and actually think it would have greatly improved this book to have the entire story be entirely from the ex-best friends perspective with the exception of the prologue and maybe a epilogue.
In a mystery novel, obviously, foreshadowing is very important. I won't lie, mysteries are not my favourite books. I usually but I try to read a couple every year; and am always intrigued by young adult ones in particular.
In 13 minutes there is almost a bit too much foreshadowing at times and yet not enough at others. If Sarah Pinborough had stopped the book at the 65% mark with it's 'answer' to our mystery I could have happily walked away with a four star review and been content with the read. But instead there is another 35% of the book to go and a whole new premise/set of information comes to light.
Yes I know, this a valid way to tell a story and can be the case in real life situations as well. But when I'm reading a book where clues are planted into the narrative it just annoys me to be completely unprepared for a twist. While this twist is plausible and possible (which is why this isn't a lower star rating; because I hate cheap twists), it still seems a bit out of nowhere. While some books are amazing at giving clues that, when you find out the 'whodunnit' you think, "wow, how did I not see that?" The best example I can think of that is a twist done perfectly is the reveal in the movie The Sixth Sense. The clues are all there right in front of us for it's twist; but almost all of us miss them the first time through. Second pass watching it and you'll realize you should have known. That is perfect mystery story telling. Sadly it's uncommon for it to be done so well.
13 minutes is not a Sixth Sense situation. Were I to go back and re-read this book I don't think there are many, if any at all, foreshadows to the final outcome during the first 65% of the book. There is a spot at about 75% where I was fairly confident I knew the 'new outcome' but the rest of the book didn't seem to point out or remind me of why I should have already known based on facts from the first 65% of the story. (I hope I explained that right, lol)
High School Drama
This is definitely a contemporary teen book set at a high school (secondary school, or whatever you call it in your part of the world). It's got annoying text message conversations with text-speak, boyfriend drama that is outrageous yet just like real high school, and all the standard cliches of being a teenger (most of which are true). The characters (and their drama) all felt quite real and had enough depth to just keep me interested in most of them. One or two were a bit flat but as they are not significant characters I didn't really mind. And, as I said already, the ex-best friend character was easily the one I felt the most for and even though she reacts in a typical crazy teen fashion a few times I still totally understood her and even wanted to defend her freak-outs a few times.
Not Just Almost Death
THIS IS ONLY A WARNING THAT I'M GOING TO LIST THINGS THAT HAPPEN IN THE BOOK THAT SOME MAY FIND DISTURBING. IT DOES NOT SPOIL WHO IT HAPPENS TO OR GIVE AWAY ANY OF THE MYSTERY; but if you'd rather not know at all that's fair and you can scroll down to the "Overall" heading. I've left space before and after the possible spoiler mention so you can scroll past easily (I hope).
I think it's only fair to let folks know that there is more than just the 'almost death' the title implies. There is also sexual engagements between a minor and an adult (not described in detail but it does happen), actual death & grief, drug use, and of course lying and cheating that is typical of a contemporary teenage setting.
The writing by Pinborough is quite good and I will consider reading another of her books. But maybe not one that is a complex mystery. The plot points just didn't satisfy me at the end of the day.
To support how good the writing is I can tell you there is a lot of backstabbing and posturing in this book between a number of the high school girls. One of the situations reminded me so much of an ex-best friends attitude and way of manipulating me that, even 15+ years since (finally) telling her off, I felt like I was almost back in one of those teen moments where she treated me like crap and I put up with it because I was weak, desperate for friends and ignorant.
That's really how compelling some of the writing is. So if you are intrigued by the premise, and enjoy mystery in a young adult format, this might be for you. It's not a bad read; just not one I would ever pick-up again or recommend to most people.
Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.