Book review: 13 Minutes by Sarah Pinborough

21 Feb

13 minutesI was dead for 13 minutes.

I don’t remember how I ended up in the icy water but I do know this – it wasn’t an accident and I wasn’t suicidal.

They say you should keep your friends close and your enemies closer, but when you’re a teenage girl, it’s hard to tell them apart. My friends love me, I’m sure of it. But that doesn’t mean they didn’t try to kill me. Does it?

13 Minutes is Sarah Pinborough’s first foray into writing for a young adult market but the book shouldn’t be dismissed by those not in that age bracket – I’m an old(er) adult an I couldn’t put it down! This is a chilling look at schools, the pressures faced by teenagers today, social media and the cult of the queen bee.

It’s an age old story; every school has that girl and group of girls that everyone either wants to be, or wants to be friends with; even those who don’t, know who they are and what they are up to. In this novel, Jenny, Hayley and Natasha are The Barbies; all blonde, beautiful and confident – they rule the school.

Becca used to be friends with two of the Barbies and is now on the outside. She was best friends with Natasha  and 13 minutes is as much an examination of the dynamics of female friendships as it is a chilling psychological thriller. The dark and twisted characteristics of Sarah’s other novels are firmly present in this book as she sets up a complex web of friendship and deception seen through the eyes of several narrators. By the end of the novel I was questioning everything and feeling distinctly shaken – this is a story that you will not put down easily and will linger with you when you do.

The novel opens with Natasha’s near death experience. Technically, she was dead for thirteen minutes, pulled from a frozen river in the early hours of the morning. As Natasha awakens in hospital she has no memory of the events leading to her being found in the river.  The narration of the book from different points of view adds to its complexity. Short narrative chapters are interspersed with extracts from newspapers, text messages, diary extracts and police reports. My mind was working overtime as I tried to work out what was really going on and one of the reasons’s I enjoyed this book so much is that every time I thought I’d worked it out, Sarah turned the tables!

I’ve been a fan of Sarah’s writing for a while now but this is my favourite of her books that I’ve read so far. 13 Minutes is a gripping and tense psychological thriller that will keep you up turning the pages long into the night and then have you sleepless as you try to get to grips with the frightening premise!

5/5

13 Minutes is out now in hardback and ebook formats from Gollancz.

Find out more about Sarah and her writing at: http://www.gollancz.co.uk/sarah-pinborough/

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