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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

13 to Life by Shannon Delaney - A Review

13 to Life by Shannon Delaney came out in May (St. Martin's Press) and I heard a lot of tweets about it on Twitter.  Now, I'm normally not a werewolf fan, but I am hugely susceptible to peer pressure, so I decided to pick up a copy.  I'm glad I broke out of my mold.

Here's the blurb:
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. 
Sounds intriguing, right?  Cover's not hard on the eyes either...

So right off the bat, I like the book because the MC is named Jessie. 'Nuf said.

The book pulled me in because there are all these little trails, but information is only fed to you in small snippets.  You know from the blurb that "something" happened to Jessie's mom.  But what?  As the details come out slowly, her life looks more and more like an imminent train wreck.

Then you throw Pietr into the picture - Pietr, who Jessie has convinced to date her best friend, Sarah, but whom Jessie ends up kissing (a lot) behind closed doors.  Yeah - that could be a problem.  And there's the fact that he somehow skipped school all last year to prowl around Russia while the Russian mafia is committing random crimes in a neighboring town.  Also sounds like it could be a problem.

I also liked that you got to meet Jessie and Pietr's families and they all seemed to have distinct personalities.  Jessie's dad was there enough to be believable but not enough to keep her out of trouble.  And that's a fine line you walk as an author too -- so I can appreciate that artistry there.

Finally, there was enough realistic tension in the pages that I stayed up too late reading on more than 1 night.  And I love my sleep, so that tells you something.

BUT -- and here's my main complaint -- I didn't feel like this was a stand alone novel.  Now, I know Delaney wrote it to be a series.  I get that.  But there are far too many loose ends for this book to make it on its own.  And I feel like that's a cardinal sin somehow.  Like even though you've left me hanging and wanting to read the next book, I should still feel like this one is complete.  And I don't feel that way about this one...

Someone else also mentioned that the Russian mafia and wolves in a neighboring town plot lines felt underdeveloped, and I'd have to agree with that as well.  Of course, it leaves Delaney lots of room in her series to work, but I felt like I had no idea why Jessie was following these stories when her own tragic story was still so close.  If it was a distraction, I would've liked a better picture of that.

But it's easy to be a Monday morning quarterback right?  It's a lot harder to actually write a book that catches my attention so completely.
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Overall, I give 13 to Life 3.5 out of 4 Greek coins - a better than URA* rating (just not quite OMG!)  And I'll be awaiting the sequel, Secrets and Shadows, coming out in February.

7 comments:

Lea (YA Book Queen) said...

Nice honest review! I've been really curious about this book...I'll have to see if my library has it :)

Audra said...

I've heard a lot of buzz about this one; thanks for the review. I'm not typically a supernatural fan but I've been softening my attitude toward werewolves so I may pick this one up!

Jessie said...

Audra- if you're looking to break into paranormal and haven't read Melissa Marr's Wicked Lovely series, I'd start there. I didn't used to think that I like faeries either.

Audra said...

Jessie -- I just read Wicked Lovely this summer -- it was great! I was very taken with the idea of malicious/malevolent fairies!

LM Preston said...

Hey to me, a 3 is a decent read. Most of what I read is a 3. I got this as a free copy, so it'll move up on my TBR list because I like werewolves.

Shannon O'Donnell said...

I've been wondering about this one. It looks so good. I hopped over from Leigh's blog to say hello. :-)

Jessie said...

@Shannon O'Donnell - welcome and thanks for dropping by!

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