Book: 13 Minutes
Author: Sarah Pinborough
Published By: Gollancz
Expected Publication: 14th July 2016
I received this book for free via Netgalley, this in no way affected my opinion of the book.
First of all, as I always do when I receive a free book, I would like to thank Netgalley and Gollancz for allowing me to read this book. I probably would not have come across it if I hadn’t found it on Netgalley and I really enjoyed it, so I’m really glad that I did find it!
Basically the premise of this book is a girl who drowns and is clinically dead for 13 minutes but she is revived and wakes up with no memory of what happened to her and why she was in the river in the first place and the whole book is devoted to discovering why she ended up in the river, was it an accident, was it suicide or did someone try to kill her?
The opening of the book was very intriguing and got me instantly hooked as we started with Natasha’s accident and I immediately had questions, I wanted to know why she was there and what had happened to her. You do kind of have to suspend your disbelief that someone really could have been dead for 13 minutes as I think just a few minutes without oxygen to the brain will kill you permanently, but once you get past that, it’s an intriguing premise.
The first part of the book was rather slow, it was just the set up of the mystery and the characters. It wasn’t the most gripping part of the book but it was well written and the chapters were short which kept me going until the pace picked up in the second and third parts of the book (as the book is split into three parts). I loved that it was set in England, since that’s my home country, I always like reading books set here but I was slightly confused as to where in England it was meant to be (until the name of the town was mentioned!).
Fair warning, if you don’t like unlikeable characters, this book is probably not for you as it has a kind of Mean Girls-esque vibe. Tasha and her cronies, Hayley and Jenny are not at all likeable and even Becca, who I guess is the heroine of this book is still quite bitchy and pretty terrible towards her only friend Hannah. However even though none of the main girls were likeable, they were all incredibly realistic (I think we have all known a Hayley or a Jenny or a Becca or a Tasha) and well developed and you could understand their motivations and I loved the exploration of teenage friendship in this book, as whilst I prefer the girls supporting girls kind of friendship, the toxic teenage girls relationship is equally realistic and I thought Sarah Pinborough did a terrific job of creating a very realistic relationship between these teenage girls, so despite the characters being unlikeable and lots of bitchy teenage friendships which I usually loathe, I actually enjoyed the characters because they were crafted so well. The storyline of this book was extremely well crafted, I loved the use of the game of chess and the school play The Crucible to foreshadow later events in the book.
I was very impressed with how Sarah Pinborough set you onto one set of suspects quite quickly and she did such a convincing job of making you think that these suspects were the culprits that you don’t see the final twist coming, she adds several twists throughout that make the book quite exciting in its final two parts. I liked that at first Tasha appeared to be the classic mean girl but as the book wore on her layers were peeled back and I was impressed by how complex of a character she ended up being. I mean don’t get me wrong, I want to punch her half the time, she’s so vain and incredibly self-obsessed and very manipulative and controlling but I do admire Sarah Pinborough for creating such a complicated character. This book definitely had a very Mean Girls-esque vibe, as Hayley, Jenny and Tasha reminded me very strongly of the Plastics (they even have their own clique name, The Barbies) which I enjoyed.
My suspicions were kept on high alert through the book, I kept changing my mind as to what might have happened to Tasha and even with all of the theories I went through, I still didn’t get the mystery right in the end! I loved that though, I love it when mysteries lead me to believe one thing and the ending turns out to be something completely different. There were several red herrings through the book and the author took me hook, line and sinker because I believed every one of them for at least a few chapters!
I wanted to like Becca because obviously she was meant to be the heroine of the book, but I just couldn’t. I had no respect for her, she was such a bitch to Hannah who was her only friend, she had a serious complex about Tasha and seemed so willing to believe her and help her when Tasha had dumped her as a friend and she was incredibly insecure and needy with her boyfriend. Still even though I didn’t love her, I still found myself rooting for her to work out the mystery and I admired her cleverness and skill at being able to work out what happened and I did feel bad for her at certain points in the book when Tasha was clearly using her.
The only one I genuinely felt sorry for in this book was Hannah, she was so nice to everyone and she was treated so badly and Becca kept saying she had no spine but I don’t think trying to be nice to people makes you spineless. I was so sad about what happened to her because she was the only redeemable character in this book really.
There was a moment where Aiden (Becca’s boyfriend), signs off a text as AK and if you watch How To Get Away With Murder like I do, it will probably make you think of Annalise Keating (this was one of my more random thoughts when reading this book!). There were so many people who were acting suspicious in this book, you never know where to turn, every time I thought I had it figured out, there was a new suspect!
I thought it was very clever that Pinborough made both Becca and Tasha fans of chess, Tasha because it fits so well with her character of being manipulative and wanting to be in control of everyone around her, and Becca because it made her the only one who was Tasha’s equal and I wasn’t expecting the way that would play into the outcome, I thought it was very cleverly done.
The attitude of the Barbies towards food in this made me really sad, I know a lot of teenage girls do have a weird relationship with food but it’s never been anything I can understand because I love food! (this isn’t really related to the plot either, another random thought I had whilst reading).
I liked the little smidge of romance between Jamie McMahon (the man who found Tasha in the river) and the detective working on Tasha’s case, Caitlin, really sweet. It wasn’t there much but I liked the cute little glimpses of the first stages of their relationship.
I was very smug when I thought I’d got it right and then all the twists at the end knocked me for six which just goes to show that you should never assume to have got anything right in a mystery thriller.
I was really frustrated at first at Tasha’s lack of character development because I thought after all she had been through that she would have developed somewhat but this was when I still felt sorry for her about not being able to remember and almost drowning…..let’s just say you find that your sympathy for Tasha dries up quickly and what appears like a lack of development of character for Tasha is really just you finally seeing her true colours.
One of the things I wrote down in my notebook when reading this book was “Wow teenagers really are the worst!” and honestly, I think that sums up this book pretty darn well.
The last part of the book was far and away my favourite part, I loved watching Tasha and Becca try to outplay each other and seeing Becca unravel the mystery and I liked how it was small details that had been mentioned at the start of the book that actually led her to working out the mystery, everything came together so well and I was really impressed with how deftly Sarah Pinborough handled her mystery. I also loved the interspersed diary entries and newspaper clippings and therapy session interviews and police interviews throughout the book, I felt they added a little something extra. I was very impressed with how everything came together and I loved how the book came full circle at the end because I so wasn’t expecting that ending but it fitted so perfectly.
Overall, I thought this was an excellently done, skillfully written, mystery thriller with great twists and turns and a very interesting look at the toxic side of teenage female friendship, everything is complex from the plot to the characters, so if you like complicated, mystery thrillers then this is definitely something you should read.
My rating: 4/5
My next review will be of my current read, The Hidden Oracle, the first book in Rick Riordan’s new Trials of Apollo series as I am nearly done (spoiler alert: I have loved it and there is a high chance of extreme fangirling in this review!).