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13 Minutes by Sarah Pinborough
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13 Minutes

by Sarah Pinborough

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ARC provided in exchange for an honest review.

Natasha doesn't remember how she ended up in the icy water that night, but she does know this--it wasn't an accident, and she wasn't suicidal. Her two closest friends are acting strangely, and Natasha turns to Becca, the best friend she dumped years before when she got popular, to help her figure out what happened.

Natasha's sure that her friends love her. But does that mean they didn't try to kill her?


It was impossible to read 13 Minutes and not connect one of the many complex characters to someone I know in real life. The mean girls, the frazzled mothers, the harried detectives, the unfortunate individuals in the wrong place at the wrong time; we all know someone(s) who fit the descriptions. Told from several perspectives and in various forms, Sarah Pinborough's 13 Minutes sucks you in with its engaging writing and study of human nature. Readers are treated to texts, therapist's opinions, the viewpoint of the rescuer, and a refreshingly realistic first hand account of what really happened the night that Tasha died for 13 minutes. Or is it really the truth?

"I have missed them, in my own way. They've been my best friends. maybe things will be different now."

Much of the novel is told from the perspective of either Becca or Tasha, ex-best friends turned allies when Tasha fears that her current best friends, The Barbies, are not as friendly as they seem. It reads like a young adult novel, the girls feel true to 16, but with college level suspense and mystery. The adult themes would normally pull me from a YA aged book, but in this case it truly carried the story into the right setting. 13 Minutes reveals the darker, more incestuous nature of the high school experience that we want to believe can't be true. The drinking, the drugs, the prevalence of sex, is completely spot on, especially when you consider the parties, a symbol of status to the youth fighting for either popularity or to remain in the shadows. Sarah Pinborough's novel can read as a very realistic warning, the events are of topical interest and her stunning ability to make everything seem so real only highlights the fact that any of this could truly happen.

"Forever. That word haunted her. Best friends forever. I'll love you forever."

13 Minutes is a Young Adult Thriller that is sure to interest readers of all ages with its mystery and psychological twists. Released in 2016, the new 2017 cover, and quiet rumors about a Netflix series, has this successful thriller back in the spotlight. It's a twisted novel, crafted in such a way that even your hunches of whodunit have little to back them up.

"They stared at each other, the winner and the loser, the way it had always been." ( )
  CarleneInspired | Jun 14, 2019 |
Teenage girls trying to be popular, changing friends, being nasty and cold to each other -- but what they don't know is that evil is very present in the minds of teenagers. This book is carefully crafted, and has twists and turns and red herrings.
Becca had been friends with Tasha and Hayley. But, they froze her out, and Becca is now friends with Hannah. Tasha and Hayley picked up Jenny as their 3rd friend in the trio of "Barbies", and there was no room for Becca.
Tasha is found unconscious in the water after nearly drowning, and the police investigate her near death. The teenagers are all under suspicion. Why was Tasha near the lake so early in the morning, what did Jenny and Hayley know? How does Becca, the former best friend, fit into all of this? ( )
  rmarcin | Jan 22, 2019 |
My previous experience with Sarah Pinborough's work through her novels Mayhem and Murder led me to expect only the best from this author, but I have to say that with 13 Minutes those expectations were more than exceeded: from start to finish this story kept me glued to the book in an adrenaline-rich rollercoaster that gave the label of 'unputdownable' a whole new level of meaning.

16-year old Natasha is rescued from the icy river in which she fell, and literally brought back to life by the paramedics, since she was clinically dead for 13 minutes. No one knows how she ended in the freezing waters, least of all Natasha herself who suffers from retrograde amnesia, so the investigators are looking both at attempted suicide - although nothing in Natasha's life appears to lead in this direction - and at foul play.

This latter option seems to gain some substance when Natasha notices the strange behavior of her two best friends, Jenny and Hayley, who seem to be hiding something: the three of them, dubbed "the Barbies" by their school mates because of their looks and popularity, used to be a close knit group standing at the top of their peers' social standing, equally admired and envied by everyone, but now there seems to be an insincere overtone in Jenny's and Hayley's demeanor, something that alarms and arouses Tasha's suspicions. For this reason she places some distance between herself and the other two Barbies, and reconnects with Rebecca, who used to be her best friend when they were younger and was mercilessly discarded when Tasha opted to move in more glamorous circles.

For her own part Becca, despite the devil-may-care attitude developed after being shunned by Tasha, is all too eager to resume the friendship and is able to silence her qualms about ditching her new friend Hannah, a plain but steadfast girl with whom she's become close, in her turn adopting the same heartless approach exhibited by Tasha in the past: she's aware of the profound injustice of the whole situation, but at the same time she is consumed by the need to get to the bottom of the mystery and in that way regain her place by Tasha's side.

From this point on, the hints and clues about what might really have happened in that fateful night are laid out in a breadcrumb trail that offers misdirections and red herrings rather than answers, until the final revelation that comes as a shock and a surprise - at least that's what it turned out to be for me since I could never have figured out that this was the intention of the author all along.

The first consideration that came to my mind once I closed the book was that I'm glad to have gone through my teenage years without major troubles, never having had to face the kind of peer pressures that Sarah Pinborough describes in this novel: granted, when I was a teenager (which was a very, very long time ago…) there was none of the aggressive viciousness described here, none of the sick thrill of ganging up on a victim for the simple pleasure of seeing to their moral and social destruction - of course there were closed groups and cliques even back then, but those who were not part of them were simply left to their own devices, not targeted as the victims of choice in the guise of Stephen King's Carrie, for example.

Here though, physical looks and social standing seem to be the parameters by which people are measured, with those at the top (in this case the Barbies) laying down the laws ruling the microcosm represented by the school environment. Such a volatile mix is also compounded by the presence of social media and their swift diffusion of news, comments and judgements which can make or break one's image with a viral swiftness of propagation. When considering the ease with which the mere perception of an individual can be changed on the sole basis of a post or a comment that's shared almost instantly across the web, it's uncomfortably evident that this is nothing short of a lethal weapon that's being wielded by people who seem ignorant of its inherent danger - or are they? While it's clear that teenage years are the most difficult transition time in the growth of a human being, it's also evident that what used to be unthinking childish malice ends up becoming a well-honed knife these young people know how to wield with unerring, cruel precision.

On this disturbing background, the main characters all come across as quite unlikable, a mix of shallowness and immaturity that does not spare even Becca, who on the surface prides herself in not caring for the Barbies' less… grounded interests, but deep down feels the need to belong, to be accepted, and for the sake of this acceptance does not think twice about adopting the other girls' mean standards of behavior. What's interesting here is that the story changes its point of view every time the author switches from one character to another, and after a while it becomes clear that many of them - if not all - are unreliable narrators, some of them because they don't have all the clues to move forward, and some of them because they are lying outright, as the reader discovers at some point.

And this is indeed the major strength of 13 Minutes: Sarah Pinborough leads her readers through a merry chase in which she keeps offering ambiguous leads that take them toward dead ends, each time building what seems like a sure development only to pull the rug from under their feet at the last minute, and leaving them clueless and disoriented and back to square one. Manipulation is indeed the code word here: of emotions, needs and desires visited by characters on each other, and of expectations and perceptions offered by the author to her readers and then dismantled with a snap of her fingers.

I am unable to recall a story that both baffled and impressed me in such a way, but one thing is certain, that my admiration for Ms. Pinborough's skills reached new heights and confirmed her in the "must read everything she writes" position she already enjoyed.

Very highly recommended… ( )
  SpaceandSorcery | Jan 11, 2019 |
One of last year’s runaway thriller hits in this country was “Behind Her Eyes” by Sarah Pinborough. Yes, it’s on my pile, I’ll get to it eventually. Even though the U.S. didn’t get their sights set on Pinborough too much until this book came out, she has many, MANY books under her belt. One of those books is “13 Minutes”. So of course once “Behind Her Eyes” got the attention it did in the U.S., the same publisher brought “13 Minutes” on over too. So THAT is how I read that one before the megahit. And I must say, even though I went in without any expectations (I didn’t realize they were written by the same author until I had already started it), I can see why people are kind of obsessed with Pinborough’s thriller writing right now. Because “13 Minutes” really sucked me in.

“13 Minutes” pretty much takes “Mean Girls” and throws it into a British crime procedural, a mix that is of course super tantalizing to the likes of me. There’s something about a Queen Bee ending up in a freezing river and then having to solve the mystery of how and why she got there. This story is told in a few different ways. We get straight up third person narrative, some first person POV, and then texts, diary entries, psychiatric notes, and news reports. These are all pretty standard these days when it comes to thriller fiction, but I liked how Pinborough carefully crafted it all together and took you down a path with lots of twists and surprises. I will happily report that a few of them actually caught me off guard. I even got that moment of ‘okay, this seems wrapped up, but there’s so much story left, so what’s going on OHBOYOHBOY’, something that I just delight in when reading a thriller novel. I feel a bit sheepish that I was so easily tricked, but Pinborough combines meticulous clue hiding and just enough unreliable narration on ALL sides that I’m not even mad that I was so totally thrown off the trail, especially since the stakes became quite high quite quickly once I realized I’d been duped.

The characters themselves, however, kind of fall into tropes that are all too familiar these days. Tasha is the mean girl who may have more depth than we expect of her. Becca is a brooding loner who tries to be aloof, but is still desperate for the affection and acceptance of her former best friend. Hayley and Jenny are both nasty and poisonous, but are also victims of Tasha’s scorn and their own insecurities. I didn’t really feel like the wheel was being reinvented with any of them, and while I was attached to Becca at least and wanted everything to be okay for her, I knew that I wouldn’t be horribly upset if it wasn’t. I wasn’t really in it for the characters as much as I was the plot and the mystery. That said, I do think that Pinborough did a pretty good job within those characterizations. I was especially taken with her writing of Tasha, who did feel like the most of complex of them all. I did also like that the book addresses that for many people the need to be accepted can make you do things that you aren’t proud of, and that being a teenager as well can make things especially messy.

But if you are in it to be taken on a fun and wild ride, “13 Minutes” will probably be a good match for you. I read it in about two marathon sittings, and I probably could have done it in one if I had the chance and time to do it. Now that I’ve found out what the big deal is about Pinborough’s thriller writing, I’m definitely going to keep an eye out for any future works that she may be bringing to the table. ( )
  thelibraryladies | Aug 20, 2018 |


13 Minutes is supposedly a Mystery or Psychological Thriller that follows Becca (and sometimes Natasha) through finding out what happened leaving Natasha, her ex-best friend, dead for 13 minutes. Now, I say supposedly because nothing was all that mysterious about it. But, let's start from the beginning.

The characters. I hated Natasha, like, really hated her. I don't think I was supposed to at first, but I cannot stand the cliche popular girl in school otherwise known as the "lead plastic." Did I like Becca? A bit. I would have absolutely loved Becca had she not actually cared about what was happening and that her ex-best friend started being all nice to her after everything. I get that at one point, they were bffs, but after knowing what happened between them, it's really not even worth the effort to hope for that flame to rekindle. Now, I get that this is high school, so there's that whole stigma of wanting to fit in, but not everyone feels that way. Where are my girls that couldn't care less about what people thought of them?

Anyway, the only other thing I really want to point out in the review worth of any huge mention is the lack of surprise when the big reveal happens. However, I had already somewhat worked out what was going on before the book even ended. I have to admit that I didn't really see the twist coming, but when it did arrive, I wasn't all that surprised. In fact, when I read it, all I really thought to myself was "wow, okay, yeah, that makes sense." When it comes to Mystery and Psychological Thrillers, there really needs to be a wow factor -- a specific moment that really boggles the reader's mind, but unfortunately, this book did not have it.

The story as a whole had potential. I'm sure that if it contained likable, believable characters, I would have been more invested in their lives. If the story hadn't made Natasha so obviously not right in the head, the twist would have had a lot more of an impact on me and actually cause some shock.

I'd say if you're interested, give it a go. It wasn't a horrible story, but a bit too bland for the genre it's supposed to be in (to me, at least). ( )
  VesperDreams | May 20, 2018 |
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Pinborough, Sarahprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Jones, RosieNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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""Mean Girls for the Instagram age." --The Times (London) The New York Times bestselling author known for her thrilling twists is back: 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. Natasha doesn't remember how she ended up in the icy water that night, but she does know this--it wasn't an accident, and she wasn't suicidal. Her two closest friends are acting strangely, and Natasha turns to Becca, the best friend she dumped years before when she got popular, to help her figure out what happened. Natasha's sure that her friends love her. But does that mean they didn't try to kill her? 13 Minutes is a psychological thriller with a killer twist from the #1 internationally bestselling author Sarah Pinborough"--… (more)

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