Wednesday, June 23, 2010

13 to Life by Shannon Delany

Something strange is stalking the small town of Junction…

When junior Jess Gillmansen gets called out of class by Guidance, she can only presume it’s for one of two reasons. Either they’ve finally figured out who wrote the scathing anti-jock editorial in the school newspaper or they’re hosting yet another intervention for her about her mom. Although far from expecting it, she’s relieved to discover Guidance just wants her to show a new student around—but he comes with issues of his own including a police escort.

The newest member of Junction High, Pietr Rusakova has secrets to hide--secrets that will bring big trouble to the small town of Junction—secrets including dramatic changes he’s undergoing that will surely end his life early.

Needless to say, chatting to Shannon on Twitter about her upcoming release, I'm truly chuffed to be part of the "UK tour".

Overall, the storytelling is strong. There are a few moments at the beginning where our main character Jess wavers between being a B-grade horror movie victim and a sensible person. Thankfully the sensible person wins out.

The initial chapter, the Prologue, did not inspire me with confidence, I have to to be honest. The writing did not ring true. It was shaky and very self-conscious but I've seen this before in other debuts so I read on because dammit, I wanted to find out about Russian werewolves! And I'm glad I stuck it out because wham, in Chapter 1, it's as if we are being reintroduced to Jess and here the writing evens out we get to know our main character from scratch.

Jess is not a girl without her issues. She has a bit of a martyr complex, being nice and becoming the bff of the girl who caused her great grief not too long ago. On the one hand I personally can see this happening but on a realistic level, I had my doubts. However, Jess feels so strongly about this, the fact that she has to somehow stay friends with this girl, that you allow her to do so on this crazy track. She remains friends with the girl - Sarah - to the extent that she denies herself the possibility of a budding romance. I was very sad about this.

I liked the new boy, Pietr. I found him darkly interesting and probably more developed than a lot of YA love interests. His relationship with Jess is one of mutual friendship and interest and barring the occasional kiss, respect. I liked that they talked and that they are showed talking. I liked that they are both deeply conflicted about their emotions for each other and how it is a push-pull situation for them. I liked that Pietr remained a mystery for longer than usual and also that his family ties were quite strong. Here we have a unique likeable character with morals and an inner strength that is so lacking in other novels we get to read, both in adult and YA fiction. I wanted to root for him regardless but his character really grew on me so in the end, it wasn't hard to be in his corner, at all.

The story focusses so deeply on the two of them that the author only much later mentions both their siblings - in Jess's case a younger sister and in Pietr's case, a twin (and also an older brother) and their guardian. I was really surprised by this, especially the Pietr's twin situation. I don't mind being surprised in novels but that came out of nowhere and it did jerk me out of the novel and got me thinking: did I miss something earlier on…but I didn't really have enough time to try and figure it out because the story was moving ahead so rapidly.

I thought that 13 to Life felt like an origin story. Call me crazy, but it's true. There are much deeper issues at work here, issues that we've only touched on. I suspect that some of the other characters we meet in 13 to Life may not in fact be as human as we think they are - I say this, and am probably wrong, but Jess and Pietr's reaction to some people, especially a fellow student at the high school, had me wondering. I am dying to ask Ms. Delany but I don't want to spoil it for myself.

I loved that once I've finished reading 13 to Life the more I thought about it, the more I interesting I found it. There is a depth here that I liked it and the world created by Ms. Delany is one that she is in complete charge of. I am looking forward to her next offerings as I want to find out more about the creation of the werewolves, the lives of Pietr and his family and also what Jess gets up to.

13 to Life is being published by St Martin's Press in June of this year over in the States with book 2 due for release in January 2011 and book 3 aimed for summer 2011.

1 comment:

Lauren said...

Interesting review, and I absolutely agree with you about the depth that this one has. I read it a while back and I found it a little disorientating simply because I always expect to know exactly where paranormal romance is going to go... and this one would sometimes take an unexpected direction. That ended up being one of the things I liked most about it.