I’ll admit, when I first picked up 13 Minutes, I wasn’t expecting much. I knew it was a murder mystery, but since the book was in the Young Adult section I thought the narrative would be simple and I would no doubt drift off and leave the book half finished. I could not have been more wrong. From the first chapter, I literally couldn’t tear my eyes away from the page (which I’m not saying I’m particularly proud of since I had assignments due in that week. Oops). It plunges you straight into the action and sets the scene with such harsh and cool imagery that it makes you shiver just reading it. It kept me asking questions and on more than one occasion I found my eyes wandering over to the next page because I couldn’t restrain myself from skipping ahead. On the blurb of my copy of the book The Telegraph have voted 13 Minutes as “one of the best YA books of 2016”. To call it a Young Adult novel I believe is to underestimate the amount of references to more adult themes. I feel it needs to be made clear that this book is not to be the usual light read that you mostly find in Young Adult fiction, so if you are on the younger side of the 12-18 spectrum, I would perhaps refrain from reading this book until a little older.
For the sake of keeping this blog post short for such an elaborate plot, I have decided to split up the narrative into the following themes:
- Summary of plot
- Jenny and Hayley’s plan
- Becca and Hannah’s friendship
- Becca and Aiden’s relationship
- Tasha as a villain -the twist
~warning: will contain major spoilers~
Sixteen year old Natasha (nicknamed ‘Tasha’) is found dead in a river in the woods near her home. She is revived, but has been dead for thirteen minutes. She has no recollection of anything leading up to her death. The police get involved to investigate the case, but it is only when Natasha enlists the help of her ex best friend Becca that things start falling into place.
Jenny and Hayley’s Plan
Right from the start, it is apparent that the writer wants us to think that Jenny and Hayley, who are Tasha’s two best friends, are involved in her death. They are shown to have text message conversations hinting that they are referring to Tasha’s incident, such as “Delete txts. Yesterdays 2. FUCK??” once they learn that Natasha has been revived in hospital. Additionally, leading up to the incident, they had both been acting secretive and distant with Tasha, which she seemed very confused and hurt by. Throughout the majority of the novel Becca and Tasha’s primary focus is to gather as much evidence that Jenny and Hayley tried to murder her as they can. Although it was a certainty that they were somewhat involved in the death of Tasha, it was much too simple to assume that they were the only ones involved. Because of this, I became sceptical when reading the book of how much information about Jenny and Hayley I could trust to be accurate, specifically when it was a chapter written from Tasha’s point of view, because of her originally biased view on her two best friends. Jenny and Hayley are said to both be conventionally attractive and popular. No one dared to say a bad word about them which furthers just how intimidating they are. When Becca and Tasha piece together how they believe Jenny and Hayley tried to hurt Tasha, they become progressively twitchier and more jumpy, which of course makes the reader and the characters within the novel more suspicious that they actually have committed the crime. After all, the pieces of evidence of their attempted murder fall neatly into Tasha’s version of events. Their motives for the murder are said to be plain jealousy of Tasha’s unmovable position at the top of the hierarchy and boredom with Tasha’s controlling nature. This just shows how damaging not only the strains of school life and thirst for popularity can be, but also how other factors can affect your state of mind. For instance, home life. Jenny’s mother is said to have a problem with alcohol, and possibly drugs. Following in her mother’s footsteps, Jenny also becomes involved with these substances, which is a possible reason why she started an affair with teacher Mr Garrick. As for Hayley, although her home life is much more comfortable and stable, her parents tend to buy her love as opposed to creating a happy space for her to live in. However, it is evident that her mother does truly care for her. Despite this though, this lack of warmth could lead to her more ‘bitchy’, self centres and shallow personality.
Once the twist is revealed at the end, I couldn’t help slightly warming to Hayley. Despite her clear performance of annoyance at Becca becoming involved with Natasha again, it is clear when Becca becomes at risk towards the end of the novel Hayley does still care for Becca, who also used to be Hayley’s best friend, very deep down. This was most likely hidden in her subconscious so even Hayley did not realise she still wanted to protect her friend until she became, as her mother says, “broken”. Her mother told Becca that Hayley “Just says, she used Becca, over and over”. This proves that since Becca is the only thing on Hayley’s mind, she is deeply traumatised that she could not protect her ex best friend from Tasha’s plan.
Becca and Hannah’s Friendship
Although Becca is a very intriguing character: smart, individual, packed with common sense but also intensely insecure, a part of her I did not like was her dismissal of her friend Hannah. Hannah was so extraordinarily opposite to Becca that the two seem incompatible. She was quiet, always eager to help and listen, and understanding. Becca herself insisted that one of the main reasons of their being friends is due to Hannah always being there to be her crutch, but she was also constantly frustrated by Hannah’s lack of spark. From reading the information I was given about Hannah (her pleasant attitude, her quiet acceptance towards anyone’s behaviour towards her), I thought I could see a spark in her that Becca could not see, because it was not on the surface. Becca, although admittedly with good reason, is so wrapped up in her own life that she never really gave Hannah the proper opportunity to tell her about herself. If she had listened, she’d know that Hannah did have a backbone, she did have other friends, she did have a life outside of Becca. This makes me think that Becca resembles that of an Alaska Young character, always living life in her best interests without much thought for anyone else. Although not wanting to face it, it is true that Becca did have some sort of part to play in Hannah’s untimely death. Despite the fact that dying from a falling light in the school theatre is not exactly the most glamorous way to go, it defines Becca’s expectations for Hannah. It was dramatic and it was unpredictable. I believe the moral of the story as far as friendship is concerned is always be kind.
Becca and Aiden’s Relationship
Becca and Aiden’s relationship is one of the themes of the book that is more adult. Through this relationship, Becca discovers a love for drugs, alcohol and eventually sex with the person you love. I’m happy that Becca was able to discover these things with someone she deeply cares about, but just sad that her first new experiences had to be with someone like Aiden. Although he made her feel safe and loved, I did not trust Aiden from the beginning. There was something in his laid back and lax attitude that I found to be unnerving. He backs off at the first sign of a deeper, more intense conversation with Becca that doesn’t involve smoking a spliff. Yes, Becca’s insecurities and vulnerability is very intense and confrontational when she confronts Aiden with her worries about their relationship, but she is right to be cautious. Their relationship did not work because of Aiden’s inability to commit to a relationship that is more than just about hanging out, and Becca’s jealousy for other girls to spiral out of control. While Becca likes to imagine a world with just them in it, Aiden is open to new experiences and cannot stay suffocated with one person forever.
Tasha as a Villain – The Twist
Tasha as the villain is something I think maybe I should have seen coming, but didn’t. In a way, I’m glad I didn’t, because otherwise I would have never been able to feel as shocked as I did when Becca realises and Natasha reveals that she had planned this all along. She is the perfect villain, an antagonist wrapped up in the role of the protagonists. But she is also the stereotypical protagonist, both in her vulnerability and the way all her cards were laid out on the table (or so it seemed). It was down to other people to unfold what secrets they had. The quick change from her persona before it is revealed and afterwards is so startling that her sociopathic tendencies that she starts to display are very clear and chilling.
noun: sociopath; plural noun: sociopaths
- a person with a personality disorder manifesting itself in extreme antisocial attitudes and behaviour.
This definition only becomes transparent to the reader once we come to understand that she had every event that had planned plotted down to every detail. Because of this, you can see some clear correlations between what a sociopath can be defined as and Tasha. She disregards other people, apart from those who spark her interest and challenge her, particularly intellectually. She is a perfectionist, and with this comes her manipulative and controlling nature to redirect a situation so she is in charge and thus powerful. All in all, Tasha is the perfect antagonist AND protagonist to this narrative, and it was a truly unexpected plot twist that made the book, which was already a great read, so much better.
THANK YOU FOR READING!