Sunday, October 10, 2010

Intriguing Premise Lacks Execution It Deserves in New Carman Thriller

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

When Jacob Fielding survives a horrific car crash that kills his mysterious foster father, he feels something transfer from the older man to him. Some type of weird energy. As he inadvertently lends the power to a daredevil new girl, the truth hits Jacob like a ton of bricks: Not only is he indestructible, but he can make other people temporarily unassailable, too. Which comes in handy, considering his best friends are a short kid with a big mouth and a beautiful blonde who sees death-defying longboard tricks as an amusing hobby. Cool as Jacob's newfound ability is, he can't shake the feeling that it's dangerous. An orphaned high school kid really shouldn't be the one playing God, should he?

The more Jacob learns about his perplexing new "gift," the more he wishes he could just get rid of it. Several people, including his thrill-seeking girlfriend, Ophelia ("Oh") James, would love to wrench it away from him, use its extraordinary power to save every soul she can. It's not like he's indifferent to easing the suffering of others, but Jacob's more than a little reluctant to play Superman with a superpower he barely understands. He only knows that he can't save everyone and only God should be able to choose who lives and who dies. Besides, he feels a darkness in his strange ability, a hunger that seems intent on consuming him.

As Jacob studies the source of his invulnerability, he discovers some strange secrets about the power, his foster father, and himself. Even though he still doesn't know everything, he knows enough to be worried about Oh, whose obsession with the power is changing her from a lighthearted free spirit into someone the boys barely recognize. Can they unlock the secrets of invulnerability in enough time to save their friend? Or will the strength of an ancient force be the destruction of them all?

Thirteen Days to Midnight by veteran children's author, Patrick Carman, introduces one of the most intriguing premises I've encountered in a long time. Not the superpower thing - that's been done a million times. I'm talking about the idea behind the superpower, which, unfortunately, I can't discuss for fear of spoiling the story. You're just going to have to trust me on this one. It's a fabulous idea. Unfortunately, Carman's execution of the idea doesn't do it justice. As written, the novel feels like a first draft. It's as if the author's playing with different ideas, molding his characters, imagining a romance, and creating preliminary dialogue. A rewrite or two could have honed all this, smoothing out the clunky writing, sharpening Thirteen Days to Midnight into the taut, focused, highly original thrill ride it's meant to be. As is, the story meanders all over the place, the characters sound like robots, and much of the plot hinges on happenings that are annoyingly contrived. These are all fairly easy fixes, something I hope Carman takes into account when writing the next books (although I haven't seen it confirmed anywhere, I'm assuming this book is not a standalone). Even though I found this one disappointing, the series has so much potential that I'm eager for the next installment. I don't have the power to see the future, but I predict this is one of those series that will get better as it goes along.

(Readalikes: A little like Delcroix Academy: The Candidates by Inara Scott and a teensy bit like the Gone series by Michael Grant)

Grade: C

If this were a movie, it would be rated: PG-13 for language (no F-bombs), gore, and very mild sexual innuendo

To the FTC, with love: I received an ARC of Thirteen Days to Midnight from the generous folks at Hachette Book Group. Thank you!

2 comments:

  1. I haven't read this book but there's nothing more disappointing than an excellent idea not executed properly! Thanks for the review :)

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  2. I didn't read this book but listen about it from my friend.. He told me some story also... I think i have to read it because it's story is looking interesting...

    Electronic Cigarettes

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