13 TO LIFE has been one of my favorite YA paranormal romance series since the first book. It's one of the few series I could turn to and say 'Risks! Author took risks!' because Delany does take some risks. None of her characters are what you'd consider to be stand up role models much of the time--half of the first two books Jessie is either plotting ways to keep Pietr from his girlfriend or helping to break into highly secure government facilities. The Rusakovas, despite being the right most of the time, were part of the Russian mafia. Alexi lied so much it hurts the brain to think, Max is (at best) a terrible flirt and at worst a womanizer.
This isn't to say none of that was for a good reason--some of it was beyond their control, some of it was in service of a higher purpose (saving their mother for instance) and some of it was just lack of foresight or logical thinking. They weren't bad people. And most of what happens to Jessie can be blamed squarely on her inability to recognize what is right in front of her. A lot. Not a little bit. Not a tiny bit. But a lot. By the end of Book 2 I sincerely doubted her ability to discern the difference between a wise action and an impulsive one.
So going into Book 3 I was a bit apprehensive. The end of Book 2 was...upsetting to say the least. Not only because I realized Jessie came by her inability to see the obvious genetically (from her father, who I lost some respect for honestly). And the end of this book is just as upsetting, though differently. In a lot of ways this felt like it was the build up to the fourth book, which has earmarks of making up for lost action time in this book.
Seeing Jessie and Pietr apart, truly apart, for a good chunk of book made me really look at them as individuals. Most of their thoughts were consumed with each other, but without having the other so close by it made them seem more lost and disjointed. Without Alexi's viewpoint (the book cycles between Jessie and Alexi) I would have missed a lot simply because he has an outsider's view. His sole purpose is to protect his siblings and he is a very dedicated individual. Despite how they treat him (rightly or otherwise), despite the difficulties they present (hard to corral a bunch of teen werewolves when you're just human) and despite the impending danger. The younger Rusakovas are very impetuous. They come up with a plan and that's all there is to it. The plan will work because they will MAKE it work. Alexi meanwhile tries to get them to understand they can't just rush off, force doesn't always win the day.
While I'm enjoying the deepening of the plot and the edge its begun to take, I'm wistful for the first book where the main problems revolved around Jessie being a dope and too trusting and Pietr attempting to just be as normal as possible. As we go further into the series they're beginning to seem less like teenagers and more like adults and I mourn the loss (even if they still manage to hold onto the angst).
Locked away at Pecan Place, Jessie finds her situation to be even more dangerous than she feared. While she struggles to maintain her sanity and discover answers about the group that seems less and less like any legitimate government agency, Pietr fights to keep their relationship alive. But very aware that his mother’s time is running out, Pietr makes a deal he doesn’t dare tell Jessie about. Because the deal Pietr’s made could mean the death of far more than his tenuous relationship with the girl he loves.