13 Minutes by Sarah Pinborough

Posted On 16 June 2016

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1313 minutes s a psychological thriller that looks at life through the eyes of a bunch of 16 year olds.  It’s one of those books that, reading as an adult, makes me simultaneously almost giddy with relief that I’m no longer at high school followed by this horrible prickly sensation about maybe never truly knowing another person.

As you can gather from the book jacket the story starts with 16 year old Natasha Howland  (Tasha) being pulled from a freezing cold river.  For a few minutes, in fact 13 to be precise, Tasha actually died before she was revived and taken to hospital.  When she eventually awakens she has no memory of the events that led to her near drowning experience but given that she was in the local woods in the early hours of the morning, with a text from an unknown number luring her to the spot the police are a little suspicious of events.

What really worked for me with this book is the deceptively simple writing and the easy way that the characters and their histories are so easily brought to life on the page.  This is truly a mean girls story where the popularity stakes have reached an all time high.

So, to the characters.  The majority of the story is narrated through Becca, who was once firm friends with Tasha until she was unceremoniously dumped because she no longer fit the image required to become ‘popular’.  Quickly replaced by a newer, prettier version Becca never totally got over the rejection and in fact suffers from rather low self esteem.  Tasha and her two followers (known as the Barbies) are the toast of the school, everyone wants to be their friend – or just be noticed by them.  They’re beautiful.  They set trends and go to all the cool parties.  However, it does seem that after Tasha’s near death experience something isn’t quite right.  The friendship doesn’t seem to click any more and there is something strange unfolding.

The setting is pretty much a modern day high school setting and obviously most of the characters are 16 years of age, so it seems on the face of it that this is aimed at a YA audience – however, don’t be fooled by that.  This is a clever story, well written with plenty of mystery and tension.  I would also mention that the f-bomb, sex and drugs play a role here but only in a way that gives the story added realism and not in a gratuitous fashion.

I’m not really going to go into the plot.  There is plenty going on and no let up in the drama.  I admit that some of it will have a familiar feel in terms of being set in a school, the back biting, the bitchiness and the struggles of the students who seem to have the constant threat of committing social suicide hanging over their heads.  The story is much more than a school drama though.  Narrated partly through Becca, diary entries by Tasha, police reports and notes of therapy sessions along with the odd texts and other articles.  That probably sounds as though it would give the story a choppy feel but that really isn’t the case and in fact it all adds to the tension.  It’s also worth paying special attention to all of these different methods of narration because on reflection the author gives a lot of subtle hints to the reader – at the same time of course as throwing in plenty of red herrings, giving everyone secrets and making half the cast appear to be implicated!

I thoroughly enjoyed this.  It’s an absolute page turner and very entertaining.  A murder mystery that isn’t afraid to really take a look at relationships, look at people’s fears and motivations and examine the mixed messages and double standards that so often lead to mischief, difficulty or, in this case, much worse.

I’ve enjoyed all the books I’ve read by Sarah Pinborough and this is no exception.  A talented author who seems to be able to turn her hand to anything and give it a certain special something I look forward to seeing what she comes up with next.

I received a copy of this courtesy of the publisher through Netgalley for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.



21 Responses to “13 Minutes by Sarah Pinborough”

  1. sjhigbee

    This sounds like it would tick my box, too. I’ve only read one of her books, but I really enjoyed it. Thank you for a really good review.

  2. jenclair

    I’m adding this to my list! Your review certainly piqued my interest!

    • @lynnsbooks

      Ooh, I hope you enjoy it if you pick up a copy. Let me know. I do love Sarah Pinborough.
      Lynn 😀

  3. Tammy

    I’ve never read her books before, but I did just get a short novella for review which I’m eager to start. I’ve heard so many great things about her books, and I’m glad you enjoyed this one!

    • @lynnsbooks

      I really like Sarah Pinborough – I hope you enjoy your novella and look forward to your review.
      Lynn 😀

  4. jessreadingnook

    This sounds so interesting! Thanks for the great review. 🙂

  5. maddalena@spaceandsorcery

    Just seeing Pinborough’s name on the title of your post would have been enough to add this book to my “next” list, since I enjoyed both “Mayhem” and “Murder” very much, but I love the core concept of this book, and from your comments I think this is going to be another winner. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

    • @lynnsbooks

      I do really like SP – I loved her fairytale retellings – Charm/Beauty/Poison – they’re so good. I really enjoyed this. I think it has similarities to other things and maybe the characters will feel like characters you’ve read before but I love the way Pinborough tells a tale. She just makes it seem effortless.
      Lynn 😀

  6. Lisa (@TenaciousReader)

    I’ve been really curious about this one! Mayhem did not work so well for me, but I loved Pinborough’s fairy tale re-tellings and felt like it was a matter of the actual plot versus her writing. So, glad to hear this one worked well. I may have to check it out.

    • @lynnsbooks

      I enjoyed it. Mayhem I also liked – Murder even more so. The fairy tale retellings are what really kicked me off on the Pinborough streak. I do really like her writing. It’s not overly fussy. She’s sort of very plain speaking and yet she manages to really set the scene for me.
      Lynn 😀

  7. DJ (@MyLifeMyBooksMyEscape)

    Seems like the type of story where I would get really heated over characters actions! Love getting into a novel like that. Also, I’d totally forgot this was an epistolary!

    • @lynnsbooks

      I really like it. But, in fairness I really do like this author so maybe I’m biased – I don’t think so though!
      Lynn 😀

  8. Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum

    I so wish this one was available in the US, it’s a bit tough to get unless I hit up good old Book Depository. Maybe some day soon! Her books tend to get pubbed over here, just have to wait a bit.

    • @lynnsbooks

      Ahh, I didn’t realise that. I’m sure it will eventually reach you and I think it’s worth the wait. After all it’s not like you have a shortage of other books at the moment. I do love Pinborough though.
      Lynn 😀

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