Review: 13 MINUTES by Sarah Pinborough (Gollancz)

PinboroughS-13MinutesUKAn excellent new thriller from one of Britain’s best authors

Natasha was dead for 13 minutes. And it changed her world completely…

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…

Sarah Pinborough’s latest thriller is both an excellent thriller and an insightful examination of what it means to be a teenager in the social media age. It blends these two facets together perfectly, creating one of the first must-read novels of the year.

The story of 13 Minutes took me pleasantly by surprise. I really enjoyed Pinborough’s other novels, so I knew this was going to be a very well-written novel. It exceeded my expectations, though, and kept me gripped well into the night on two occasions (I finished it at 2:30am). The pacing was brisk, but unhurried. The characters are well-rounded, varied and believable. In fact, there was nothing in the novel that didn’t come across as realistic: the dialogue, the events, the progression of the narrative… Everything worked.

The author’s prose is excellent, and pulled me through from beginning to end. I enjoyed how she wrote the characters — from Becca’s social anxiety and insecurities, to Natasha’s confidence and the confusion she writes in her diary. (The novel is partially comprised of diary entries, police notes, text conversations, and other documents.) Both characters navigate the trials and tribulations of high school girls in a time of social media — as an alpha teen (Natasha) and an outsider (Becca). Their relationship is also interesting: formerly friends, Becca fell out of favour and has not lived the life of a “Barbie” — the group of cool girls led by Natasha. Nevertheless, when Tasha starts to take her into her confidence, Becca finds herself drawn into the squabbles of the cool and popular, the allure of cool tantalizing and addictive. Pinborough touches upon the damaging nature of social media, the lure of popularity, and the lightning-fast changes that can occur in teen politics. It is also a novel about the lies we tell ourselves, and the secrets kept from those who are supposed to be our closest friends.

There are a couple of great twists, and a satisfying ending — although, one that was perhaps just a shade quicker than expected. It all makes for an engaging psychological thriller. 13 Minutes is a novel of two parts, as certain revelations about halfway through make us recalibrate our understanding and expectations of the characters and events being investigated. (It is because of these revelations that I’ve had to keep discussion of the plot to a minimum.)

A must-read for fans of Megan Abbott, and fans of TV shows like Broadchurch. Very highly recommended, this is an addictive, must-read. Excellent. I can’t wait for Pinborough’s next novel.

Also on CR: Reviews of The Death House, The Language of Dying, Mayhem, Poison


13 Minutes is published by Gollancz on February 18th, 2016. For more, you should check out the author’s website, and follow her on Twitter and Goodreads.

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