Get ready for some icy chills if you’re planning to read 13 Minutes by Sarah Pinborough, and not only because it is about a girl almost drowning in a river in the middle of winter. Let the story of these teenage girls pull you under water…
About the story (no spoilers)
The book centers around Natasha, her former best friend Rebecca, and the current it-girls Jenny and Hayley. Being the number one it-girl, Natasha gets all the attention she needs. But after her accident, she can’t remember what happened the last day before her swim in the icy water.
Natasha almost drowned in an ice cold river, being clinically dead for 13 minutes. With her memory loss, it is impossible to find out how she ended up in the water. Or is it?
She reconnects with Rebecca, her former best friend. Together they try to figure out what happened and what the roles of Jenny and Hayley were in this accident. The question is, do they really want to know?
About the book
13 Minutes describes the thoughts and feelings of teenage girls with different methods. The reader learns about Becca in the standard way most books are written, but only gets a peek into Jenny and Hayley through their texts. Natasha’s world is available to us through a diary, and then there are the transcripts of interrogations by the police, who are trying to figure out whether it was an accident or not.
This change in mode of communication makes it very clear who we are following at the moment. In some books it takes a while to figure out who’s perspective is used for the current chapter, but Pinborough made this very easy for us.
The main theme of 13 Minutes is friendship and trust. Can you trust your friends? How far would you go to break up a friendship? Pinborough gives us a peek into teenage group dynamics, that I kind of recognize from my own time as a teenager. Not the “did they try to murder their friend or not” part, ofcourse.
At first, I had trouble with this book. The first part didn’t catch my attention, which made it difficult to read through. There were so many things bothering me, but I wanted to know what happened so I kept reading. Finally, it got better and I couldn’t put it down anymore. But that doesn’t make up for the mistakes and annoying elements of the book, that kept on happening while I read.
The first thing that really bothered me, is that names got mixed up constantly. I just don’t get how the writer AND a team of editors don’t see these errors, while I do. And it wasn’t just one time, but multiple times throughout the book. Okay, I read a translation so some mistakes could have happened there, but still. Please don’t mix up names. And if you want to avoid that, don’t pick names that are very similar (like Hannah and Hayley).
It was hard to get into it at first, but it got really good in the end. Keep that in mind if you read it yourself and struggle with the first part as well.
The second annoying thing I want to mention is that during the text conversations between Jenny and Hayley, I kept thinking, “teenagers don’t text like this”. This also applies to the diary of Natasha. It just didn’t feel real, like for instance the IM between Maddy and Olly in Everything, Everything. The diary was more a statement about what happened after the accident that you would give to the police, than something personal that could help you get your memory back.
But the motive of the villain(s) is very good, and while reading it I started figuring out what happened, together with Natasha and Rebecca. At the same moments I thought, “well that doesn’t make sense” as the main characters, and I think that is what really pulled me under in the end. It felt like I was part of the team so I wanted to keep going.
This is the first combination of YA and thriller that I read, and Pinborough made it a nice experience. Some things could be better, some things might have gotten messed up with the translation, but overall it was a compelling story. To really get in the mood, read it in winter!