By Sarah Pinborough
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?
13 MINUTES by Sarah Pinborough is a gripping psychological thriller about people, fears, manuiplation and the power of the truth. A stunning read, it questions our relationships - and what we really know about the people closest to us . . .
I really enjoyed this book, it was not at all what I expected and I missed my bus to work a few times because I was so wrapped up in reading it. The opening paragraph sets the tone for the rest of this suspense filled book:
“She was young. No more than eighteen. Probably less. Her hair could be blonde or brown it was hard to tell, soaked wet in the gloom. She was wearing white, bright against the river, almost an accent to the fresh snow that lay heavy on the ground. Her pale face; blue lips slightly parted, was turned up to the inky sky. She was snagged on twigs as if the bent branches, bare of leaves, and broken by Winter, had grasped to save her, to keep her afloat.”
“It was five fourty-five in the morning and there was a dead girl in the river.” Mr Mcmahon is out walking his dog one morning when he finds Natasha drowned in the river. Natasha is officially dead for 13 minutes and when she wakes up she can remember nothing of her ordeal including how she came to be in the water and who sent her a text to meet in the usual place in the dead of night. Natasha feels unable to trust anyone, especially her best friends Hayley and Jenny, so in desperation she turns to her former best friend Becca for help.
From the beginning it is clear from Jenny’s and Hayley’s messages that they are hiding something when Hayley tells Jenny to delete all the messages between them from the previous day. Jenny is an innocent looking girl from the wrong end of town with a bit of a reputation just like her mother. Hayley is a middle-class athlete and former tomboy with a penchant for very short shorts. Together with Natasha they form the most popular friendship group in school, ‘the Barbies.’
For me Becca was the most interesting character in the book and the most likeable. Becca is an outsider at school but not necessarily a social outcast. She spends her spare time smoking weed with her boyfriend Aiden. Becca is a typical teenager and is looking forward to escaping to University and freedom. She feels her mother wants her to be someone else and one our first glimpses of their relationship is when Becca things that the last thing she wants is a conversation with her mother first thing in the morning or at any other time.
Becca describes the way she feels about Tasha as ‘a ball of wire she couldn’t untangle.’ She is angry at her for dropping her from her social circle because she was fat, she feels jealous of her and insecure about Aidan’s past feelings for her and she cares about her because they had been best friends since childhood. That is why when she hears of Tasha’s coma she decides to go and read to her in hospital and why she later feels herself being drawn into friendship with her again.
Becca’s relationship with Hannah was an interesting one. It showed a different side to Becca and via Hannah showed us an outsider’s perspective on Tasha and her social circle. Hannah is described by everyone, including Becca, as dull and clingy. Becca assumes she has no other friends and is privately derisive of her close relationship with her mother and father. Becca is frequently referred to as uncool and someone you wouldn’t want to hang around with.
Tasha is a tricky character to pinpoint throughout the book, is she a victim in all of this or is there more to it than meets the eye? Initially, Tasha is very much the victim, someone to pity and genuinely feel sorry for but at times later on I felt like she insincere and manipulative. For example, when she kisses Mark Pritchard knowing full well it will annoy Hayley. She also comes across as conceited at several times during the book, a product of being spoilt by her parents and of nobody calling her on her behaviour.
I thought the author accurately portrayed the delicate nature of friendship between teenage girls, the way they can be friends one minute and the next bitter enemies. I also liked the way she introduced the way social media can be used to damage someone’s reputation, to emotionally abuse and generally bully someone. “Words ran like strong barbed wire around the teenage community of this small town, ready to scratch and tear and snag you.”
I felt that the use of text messages, transcripts, and Tasha’s diary were a clever tool used to tell us elements of the story we may not have known otherwise and to keep the mystery alive throughout the book.
I loved the twists and turns in the book and liked that I was unable to guess the ending as so often happens when I read psychological thrillers. I liked the way it left me wanting to know more about what happened to the characters. Simply put if you are thinking of reading this book you won’t regret it.
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