Sunday, 20 June 2010

13 to Life Review

As most people know by now, in 2008 Shannon became the winner of the first ever mobile phone contest in the western world with 13 to Life and out of this contest, she landed a book deal with St. Martin’s Press. 13 to Life is Shannon’s debut novel and an impressive debut at that. I had never heard of or had the opportunity to read snippets of what was to become 13 to Life although I quickly became excited about the story when I found out the premise. I was also immediately drawn to the beautiful cover art and loved the snappy title. Then it became a book I lusted after and desperately wanted to read. Fortunately, I managed to convince Carla from The Crooked Shelf that I should be on their ARC tour and to my utter delight, she agreed to include me. THANK YOU!

To say I was hungry for the story is an understatement and what I was presented with was a literary feast. Continuing the food theme, this is the recipe for 13 to Life...

Add one teenage girl called Jess trying to return to normal life after the loss of her mother + unrequited love with a popular high school football player called Derek. Spice it up by sprinkling a hot, new, mysterious Russian boy called Pietr into the mix and add lashings of annoyance. Keep stirring and eventually this will soften the mixture and said annoyance will diminish into feelings of like, lust and then To add flavour, throw in the Russian mafia and pepper with a well kept secret. Stir in some family issues and add a touch of guilt for good measure. STIR, STIR, STIR.

Shannon Delany’s excellent command of the English language, rich descriptions and impressive writing style has inspired me to write a fantastical review. I had intended to sound formal and highly educated but then I changed my mind and decided to go with my first thoughts... OMG I LOVED IT! One should always go with their first thoughts don’t you think?

I sincerely think that Shannon has a real talent for description and the opening scene was a nice introduction to this. I found myself reading passages aloud and then telling myself how wonderful they were. I of course agreed. I knew from the very first page that I was in for a real treat.

What I liked most about the book was Jess and Pietr’s relationship. It wasn’t forced or unrealistic. It didn’t just appear out of nowhere. It started as nothing but an assignment, an annoying duty to become a guide for the new student and then gradually it developed into something else. And actually, their relationship became something else long after I WANTED it to be something else which substantiates my point about the fact that it wasn’t rushed. This was the reader’s first introduction to transformation – a theme that runs like a current throughout the book. I also liked the fact that Derek (the jock) was ever present and I could understand how Jess could have feelings for both of them at the same time. Again, realistic.

The main protagonist Jess was a likeable character and one that you could project yourself onto. However, I can’t say I would have minded showing the hot, new guy around school and would have happily taken over those duties given the opportunity. Pietr is appealing in a way that doesn’t allude to “the bad boy” persona and I found this somewhat refreshing. My boyfriend is part Russian and in some bizarre way, I feel this legitimises my feelings of lustiness for Pietr. What?! I’m obviously attracted to Russians, nothing wrong with that ;)

I read 13 to Life in a staccato like fashion, giving myself allocated snippets of time to read, and then when the time was up, I would go and do something essential like iron a uniform or make a packed lunch for work. After each little task was accomplished, I would return to the book. Apparently, reading is also essential to my being! Although arguably not when it keeps you up until the early hours of the morning when you have to go to work the same day (it is however the sign of a good book).

13 to Life not only appeals to the reader but also the writer in me. Its rich descriptions and strong narrative inspire me to improve as a writer which is more than I could have asked for when I started reading this book. I highly recommend that you add 13 to Life to your reading pile IMMEDIATELY.

I’m so impressed with this book that I think I want Shannon to adopt me. I may just have to start calling her “mom” from now on.

13 to Life is released in the US on 22nd June but unfortunately us Brits will have to wait until August (unless you buy the US version of course and then you can sneakily read it way before your friends). As an aside, I loved the subtle hints in the book towards all things British from the word “daft” (it makes me grin to see this word appear, not once but twice in the text) to great British bands like Queen.

Find out more information about Shannon and 13 to Life on her website – click here to visit.

For the writer in you, Shannon has a section over on the Mundie Moms Forums called “Writing 101” where she will answer your writing questions. It’s definitely worth checking out and I’m going to make a concerted effort to visit there more often from now on! Click here to see what it’s all about.

You can also find Shannon on Twitter and Goodreads.

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