BOOK REVIEW: 13 Minutes


Title: 13 Minutes

Author: Sarah Pinborough

Publisher: Gollancz

Published: 18 February 2016

RRP: £16.99


I 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?


When Tasha is pulled from an icy river, she has technically been dead for 13 minutes. She has no memory of what happened, and doesn’t know who to trust. Her best friends, Jenny and Hayley, are behaving secretively and it’s clear that the other two members of the “Barbie” clique know more than they are telling. Tasha suspects they have suddenly and inexplicably turned on her and confides her fears to her ex-best-friend Becca.

Told partly through Becca’s perspective and memories, Tasha’s diary entries, and text message exchanges between Jenny and Hayley, 13 Minutes gives a disturbing glimpse into the underbelly of teenage mentality, in those dangerous years between being capable of planning evil and being able to fully understand the reality and finality of death. It’s not like changing a Facebook status; it is irreversible and there will be consequences.

Despite herself and her long held quiet enmity with Tasha, Becca finds herself drawn into the mystery and tries to help her old friend, but the more she learns, the further away answers seem to become and the more she becomes entangled in the invisible net of other people’s secrets and lies; they threaten to engulf her and the new life she has struggled to build for herself as surely as the river nearly engulfed Tasha.

The more deeply Becca is pulled into the mystery, the more she begins to question her own perception of old history. Nothing is as it seems; it’s certain that mind games are being played, but it’s never quite clear who the other players are. As Becca navigates the murky and shark infested waters of teen popularity, she finds herself questioning everything and everyone she thought she knew. While for most of us our school years are far behind us, it’s easy to forget how much the smallest things mattered back then, and what hotbeds of hormones and breeding grounds for the darker side of our emotions they can be. The pack mentality is prevalent and there are unwritten rules for survival which must be followed. Here, the stakes are raised for literal survival rather than merely the retention of a coveted position on the complicated and slippery social hierarchy, wrapped up as it is in everything from looks to class to how popular your mates are; if Becca gets this wrong, someone could die.

In the tradition of Christie at her finest, there is a sucker punch of an ending when the clues are deftly pulled together which will have you wanting to turn back to the very first page to read it all over again just so you can see how it was done.

At its core, 13 Minutes is a gripping psychological chiller, but strict SFFH fans who do make an exception will be rewarded with a fascinating exploration into what can happen when friendships turn toxic and a startlingly insightful look into the inscrutable world of teenagers with a dark supernatural twist. It is a grim reminder that anyone who says school days are the best of your life has probably forgotten what they were like. 13 Minutes is a darker, smarter Heathers, for the Twitter generation.

GS Blogger: Michaela Gray (@bookiesnacksize)

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