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13 to Life is the debut novel by Shannon Delany. It was released by St. Martins Press (US) and it is 320 pages long.
Since the sudden loss of her mother, Jessica Gillmansen hasn't had an easy life. She's trying to cope with things as best as possible but keeping up a strong exterior is harder than she expected. Then Pietr Rusakova and his family move to Junction and her whole world is turned upside down. The arrival of the Ruskovas actually disrupts the lives of many of the girls at Junction High.
Pietr has secrets though and seems to be drawn to Jess. He's extremely good looking with a hot accent and Jess cant seem to stay away from him, even though she likes someone else and many of her friends like Pietr. As a strange friendship blossoms, Jess is forced to rethink what she thinks she knows about reality really is and how well she knows the people around her, especially Pietr.
What I thought
I remember first hearing about this book and knowing that I had to read it. Unfortunately, other books were higher up in my list to buy first and I never got around to getting this one. Luckily, I won a competition to pick a book so I asked for this one, knowing I probably wouldn't get around to it for a long time otherwise.
I hate to say it but I had some pretty major problems with Jess but there was also a lot that I loved about her. I'll start with the good. Jess was a really feisty character with a quick, witty mouth on her. Even though she has a lot to deal with, Jess isn't afraid to be outspoken and let people know what she thinks of them. I really liked the aspects of Jess' character and really made me wish that she got a happy ending after all of the heartbreak. Now on to the bad. As awesome as Jess was, I kind of wanted to smack her. For someone who went on about caring for her friends and what they thought/ wanting them to be happy, she didn't show it very well. I don't really want to say too much so that I don't spoil to book for anyone but I will say this... Jess is two faced and a bit of a bitch. That aside though, she was a good character.
Pietr was the character that I loved though. From the moment he appeared on the page, I was drawn to him, just like all of the other girls (apart from Jess) in Junction. Turning up to school with a cop certainly makes someone stand out. Not only that had me interested though. Pietr was mysterious, dark, obviously carrying some big secrets and he has the hot Russian thing going on. The use of the Russian language certainly helped to add to my love for him. Pietr gets some pretty fantastic one liners and his banter with Jess was very entertaining. I loved the chemistry between the two and how their relationship wasn't easy and smooth at any point. In fact, Jess doesn't even like Pietr to begin with.
I seem to be having a bit of a thing with this at the minute but one thing I truly loved about this book was Pietr's family. Secondary characters can really make a book and I think this was the case for me here, especially since I had problems with Jess. I said before that Pietr was mysterious but add in his whole family and there is some serious puzzling plot twists. Although they aren't featured too much (not enough in my opinion), the time spent on them was great and since they began to pop up more and more, I was always waiting for the next time they would show up.
Although the pacing of the story was slightly off at times, I was hooked very quickly. 13 to Life is full of mystery and intrigue from both Jess and Pietr, considering that they both have their own secrets. The added elements of Shakespeare and the Cold War certainly added to my love of this book. In regards to Shakespeare, it was nice to see that it wasn't used in the traditional sense. Jess loves Romeo and Juliet but Pietr hates it, which resulted in some quite funny debates about what it is really about.
Even with the things I disliked about 13 to Life, it is still a great debut which is beautifully written and different. Delany injects some much needed fresh ideas into werewolves, romance and forbidden love. Highly recommended.