13 to Life

2008 TextNovel Grand Prize Winner

On the outside this sounds kind of like every other young adult paranormal you can think of: mysterious new boy (and siblings) begin attending the local smalltown high school, girls go ga-ga, our narrator or main character is constantly in his company, sparks fly...oh and that annoying problem, that may be supernatural even, keeps rearing its plot point head. Here's where Delany does it different. Our narrator, Jessie, is completely 100% normal. There is nothing, except maybe her pistol shooting, that is special about her in a paranormal way. As a human she is determined to help others out as much as possible. Like the elderly at the nursing home she volunteers at for school and the former Queen Bee who used to torment her, but is now a sorry broken doll. In other words Jessie does her best to 'fix' things so everyone is happy and comfortable. I'm hoping Jessie stays normal too. Other than some weird coincidences surrounding her and Pietr, I think she will stay normal.

Throughout the novel Delany teases us with information regarding the werewolves. Jessie sees a huge animal's teeth and eyes on her farm. There's reported sightings in a nearby town. Newspaper articles detailing the 'Phantom Wolves'. Even some subtle clues as to who is a werewolf (not that its a surprise). More than the werewolf problem however, Delany brings the Russian mafia into the mix, learning to cope with grief and guilt and what makes a person a man instead of a beast. It felt like redemption was the major underlying notion. Jessie was seeking redemption for treating her mom so carelessly while she lived. Sarah was seeking redemption for how she used to behave. Pietr was seeking redemption for a curse he never wanted. Their stumbling ideas on how to achieve this redemption is what drives the story.

Some of the secondary plot lines got a shorter stick on development. For instance Derek; his interest in Jessie seemed all over the place and I couldn't quite get if he was truly playing her or if it was genuine interest. Wanda, a female friend of Jessie's father's, just kind of...appeared and had answers at one point. One being Max (Pietr's brother)'s interest in Jessie's friend Amy. Since this is the first book in the series, I expect a lot of the answers will be forthcoming in the preceding volumes, but sometimes my questions got in the way of my immersing myself in the book.

I was highly anticipating this novel and it was not a let down at all. I'm looking forward to the second book, due out in early 2011, and finding out more what happens after the ending scene!

Book Blurb for 13 to Life

Jessica's life seemed difficult enough since the sudden loss of her mother, but meeting Pietr Rusakova turns her world upside down again. The newest member of Junction High, Pietr is a first generation Russian-American, a fact that by itself makes him different enough to get lots of attention in the small town. But Pietr is far more than good looks and an interesting accent, Pietr has secrets to hide-secrets including dramatic changes he's undergoing that will surely end his life early. Secrets dating back to the Cold War get the better of Jessica's curiosity, leading her into an exciting and dangerous world where her understanding of reality and what makes a man or a monster will be challenged.

Night Owl Reviews Jun, 2010 4.75