Everything about Jessie Gillmansen’s life changed when her mother died. Now even her hometown of Junction is changing. Mysterious dark things are happening. All Jessie wants is to avoid more change. But while showing a hot new guy around Junction High, she’s about to discover a whole new type of change. Pietr Rusakova is more than good looks and a fascinating accent – he’s a guy with a dangerous secret. And his very existence is sure to bring big trouble to Jessie’s small town. It seems change is the one thing Jessie can’t avoid.
I am absolutely loving 13 to Life. It’s such a fun debut, with strong characters, a steady plot, huge mysteries and some teen romance.
Jessie is roped into showing the new boy at school around to his classes. Pietr is a broody new student that arrives with his own police escort, and immediately sets a fire of feeling under Jessie. Amidst school assignments, crushes, homecoming, animal scares and carnivals, Jessie finds herself drawn into Pietr’s world – and it’s not necessarily as normal as everything else in Junction.
Jessie is one of the best female characters I’ve read about this year. Her mother died pre-book, and though she is struggling to cope, she is still a strong-willed young woman. She works hard at home caring for her family horses, is on the school newspaper, gets good grades and maintains her friendships. Jessie has a slight martyr complex and tends to cling to certain ideas once she gets them in her head, but hey – she’s human. Pietr is our mysterious, broody Russian who’s new in town (I’m a little confused as to why Pietr has a feminine last name – Rusakova. My Russian co-worker informed me that as a male, his last name should be Rusakov. However, I was lucky enough to join in a chat tonight where Shannon gave a sneak peak at the prologue of book two, Secrets and Shadows, and it looks like the reason behind his last name is explained). Pietr immediately latches on to Jessie – despite her best efforts – and slowly opens up to her throughout the course of the novel.
Speaking of opening up, I really enjoyed the fact that Shannon Delany didn’t tell the characters’ backstory in large chunks, but rather let us have small glimpses as the facts became relevant until we had a more complete understanding of what had gone on pre-story. Of course, Pietr’s life is still quite the mystery since we have two more books to come, but Jessie’s past becomes a lot more clear. The romance between Jessie and Pietr is fraught with tension due to Jessie’s friend Sarah, who you just know is going to be difficult to handle as the series continues.
My favourite part of the plot? The nice long buildup we have to the werewolves. Jessie doesn’t find out until near the end that Pietr is a werewolf, so we as readers are only guessing up until then (though we know we’re right ;)). The novel was more about the relationships between the characters – Jessie and Pietr, Jessie and her friends, Pietr and his family, etc. – than about the supernatural. Naturally, I’m assuming the next book will deal more fully with the werewolf aspects of the plot since Shannon left us with a big ol’ cliffhanger, and Jessie is still reeling from the knowledge of what Pietr’s secret actually is.
13 to Life kept me completely entertained from start to finish. Shannon Delany is a wonderful debut author who has written a book that easily joins in my favourites of the year. I can’t wait to find out more about her werewolf lore, and where Jessie’s and Pietr’s relationship is going. Stay tuned for an interview with Shannon on June 30th!
13 to Life is part of the 2010 Debut Author Challenge