This book was on my ‘wish list’ pretty much since I first heard of it, and my wonderful friend Dena sent me a copy for my birthday this year so naturally I pushed it up my TBR pile! The thing that attracted me was what The Times had said about it: “Mean Girls for the Instagram age” – I mean, who wouldn’t be drawn in by that? I don’t know a single person who doesn’t like Mean Girls, and I like YA and Instagram, so 13 Minutes seemed like a match made in heaven!
But unfortunately this book is less ‘the popular kid’ and more ‘generic student #12’ – it’s not even in the ‘cool loser’ clique or the ‘outcast’ clique, it literally just blends into the background. Now that’s not to say that it’s a bad book, or a good one, it’s just that the good and bad cancel each other out pretty equally.
There were some things that I genuinely liked about this novel, and the number one thing is that the novel is almost self-aware. On page one there is reference to the character feeling like a walking cliché, later on other characters think they must look like characters in a found-footage horror film. All the little moments like that made me smile, and I prefer it when novels like this don’t take themselves too seriously – it helps tropes and clichés not feel so stale when they’re poked fun at within the story!
“I am a cliché, was his next coherent thought. I am the early-morning dog-walker who finds a body.”
The plot and twists were mostly good – but I feel like they weren’t handled with the most skill, but more on this later!
The characters were quite enjoyable for the first fifth of the book, but they quickly disintegrated. I went to an all-girls high school (ages ago now, apparently, as some of the music in the book was referred to as ’90’s crap’), so I expected to relate to, or recognise, certain traits in the characters. Unfortunately the closest I got to relating/recognising (other than general bitchiness) was that Becca gets stoned and wants to be fed pizza.
We’re supposed to hate the “Barbie’s” in the book (and let me tell you, the use of “Barbie’s” got fucking old, quickly) but in all honesty, I felt more accepting of them. They knew they were bitches and they admitted it and owned it. Yes, being a complete bitch isn’t a good thing, but at least they weren’t pretending not to be bitches, unlike Becca. Becca is our protagonist but I couldn’t root for her. She was everything I despise in a character (and people IRL) – petty, jealous, hypocritical, whiny and a whole host of other negative traits.
“Who was Jenny anyway? Some dumb council estate slut who just rocked up at school and happened to have the right look? She could fuck off.”
To be honest, a lot of the characters – all of the high school ones (with the exception of Hannah) were shallow people with few redeeming qualities or features. Now right now you might be thinking ‘But V, Mean Girls had a lot of shallow characters – what’s the difference?’ – and the difference is, Mean Girls and its characters at least had a moral compass, this book and its characters doesn’t. The ‘Regina George’ doesn’t learn the error of her ways, the rest of the ‘Plastics’ don’t realise their shallow world isn’t as important as they once thought and there is no uplifting and inspirational deeper message anywhere to be found.
Honestly, the characters in this book had me seriously wondering (and Googling, so I’m not surprised if I’m on a government list somewhere now) if Justifiable Homicide is a thing (it is by the way).
The writing was a bit all over the place too. Some parts were too fast, yet some parts dragged and dragged! About halfway through I remember thinking ‘Ok, we’re done now right? How do we still have 100+ pages left?!’ – there was enough plot to flesh these pages out and justify them, but if your pacing is that bad that the reader is wondering what the hell they could have left to read then you need to take a look at your writing style. The style also switched between 1st and 3rd person a lot too – this coupled with a switch-up of style for certain chapters (diary excerpts and case files) made it feel a bit draft like rather than a finished novel. I also got quite confused at who was who sometimes.
The other thing is, I like YA, I really do. But this was too ‘YA’ for me, and it was probably because it was full of teenage drama and bitchiness. Although I will say that this is definitely for the older YA reader due to the amount of sex and drugs in it, and…you know…the murder, but I feel like the sex and drugs would cause more of an outrage.
The ultimate ending was kind of cheesy; it made the main bad guy seem like a Batman villain or something. It was very cartoony, which is a shame because the bit just before the final scene was so good!
All in all, this book is very much like a Chinese takeaway: I know it’s bad for me and offers very little in nourishment, but I enjoyed it anyway. But after too much of it I felt pretty gross and lethargic and an hour later I’m only going to be hungry again.
“We’re all strangers. Circling each other.”
[PLEASE NOTE]: I was not paid or sponsored to write this review – all the opinions are honest and my own.