YA has lost its edge for me lately. There are only so many wallpaper fantasy novels and "first love" romance novels that I can handle before I start to feel like I've eaten too much Halloween candy. I used to read YA exclusively but lately I've mostly limited myself to romance novels and, of course, nonfiction.
But 13 MINUTES, with its unique premise, called to me. What if a girl died for 13 minutes, only to be brought back, and couldn't remember what killed her? What if she was supposed to have been murdered? What if she remembers who did it?
If I had to describe 13 MINUTES using one of those stupid marketese "X MEETS Y"-type formats, I'd describe it as Gone Girl meets Mean Girls. It has the same razor-sharp tension and suspense as Gone Girl, with the same cutting social satire and surprisingly deep analysis of teen girl culture that made Mean Girls so hilarious, and yet so meaningful for so many women.
13 MINUTES has multiple POVs, described in interviews, text messages, diary excerpts, as well as the more traditional fixed narrative style. Natasha is the leader of the "Barbies," the beautiful and popular rich girl who nearly died. Hayley and Jenny are her two friends: Hayley is the sporty one and Jenny is the glamorous one. Both of them start acting strange when they find out that Natasha isn't actually dead. Becca is one of the outsiders, who isn't popular or unpopular. She has one good friend of her own and spends most of her time having sex and smoking pot with her older boyfriend. She used to be Natasha's friend when they were kids, but was kicked to the curb to make room for Jenny, because she was heavier, not as cool, and didn't have the correct social capital to fit in any longer.
The accident ends up bringing Becca and Natasha together again because Natasha isn't sure she can trust Jenny and Hayley. Even though Becca still has bitter feelings about Natasha, she didn't have the motive or the means to push Natasha into the frozen river - unlike Jenny and Hayley. Their relationship becomes increasingly intimate as more and more clues surface, and Becca is determined to race the clock and find Natasha's possible killer before she gets her memory back -
Before it's too late.
13 MINUTES took a while to get into because of the unusual format of the story. For the first 2/3 of the book it was a gritty but fairly straightforward YA thriller. I rolled my eyes a bit at the predictability of the storyline, but appreciated the realness of the portrayal of sex, drugs, and mental health among English teens. Even if it was a bit cliche, that realism made it extra interesting. And then, in the last 1/3 of the book everything changed and I had no idea what was going on.
Don't you love it when a book surprises you, when it completely turns you on your head? I do, too. I did NOT see that twist coming, and it turned a 3-star read into a solid 4.
If you enjoy gritty YA and good mystery/thrillers, you will enjoy this book.
Thanks to Netgalley/the publisher for the review copy!
4 out of 5 stars