13 to Life is a very quick read that takes an awfully long time to get to the point of the story. If you’re curious as to what this book is about, honestly, very little happens in the span of 308 pages and more questions are raised than answered by the book’s end. For the most part, the focus of this story is on the love square between the main character Jessica Gilmansen, Pietr Rusakova the mysterious bad boy, Jessica’s best friend Sarah, and Jessica’s crush Derek. Jessica and Pietr meet very early on in the novel and are thrown together so often that one can’t help but wonder if the readers are supposed to believe that this all just a series of coincidences. Jessica becomes Pietr’s peer guide and they share almost all of their classes together, as well as ride the same bus. Jessica’s father has even hired Pietr to help manage their farm. The word ‘coincidence’ starts to lose all meaning when the two are paired together constantly. That being said, I did like both main characters and given their many encounters, their relationship evolved naturally.
The mystery surrounding the Rusakova family receives very little attention, and while the readers are given hints about their past from time to time, overall, not much is learned in this novel. I assume, given the cliff hanger ending, that more will be revealed in the next book. One thing that is made abundantly clear, however, is that Pietr is a werewolf. This is one of those cases where the readers are very much aware of the fact that a character is Other, but the main character hasn’t the foggiest idea that the boy she is crushing on has supernatural abilities. At one point she even jokes about the idea of Pietr being a werewolf, but then quickly dismisses it.
The love square reminds me a little too much of storylines that can be found in teen dramas on TV. Jessica has strong feelings for Derek, a popular jock at her school, but after having many encounters with Pietr, she starts to develop feelings for him as well. Jessica’s best friend Sarah also has feelings for Pietr and while Jessica encourages the two date, a little piece of her dies inside every time she sees them together. I never fully grasped the idea of forsaking your own happiness for the happiness of another. Self-sacrifice isn’t always the honorable thing to do, especially if it means lying to everyone around you. Pietr isn’t any better because he clearly has feelings for Jessica, but chooses to date Sarah for no reason other than that Jessica asked him to. There’s also something funky going on with Derek, but I’ve already spent too much time detailing the complicated love lives of these characters!
As werewolf books go, 13 to Life is definitely one of the weaker stories I’ve read. I hate to compare anything to Twilight, because Twilight shouldn’t be the standard by which all paranormal YA books are compared to, but the whole dynamic with the Rusakova family reminded me a little too much of the Cullens. While I have no plans to read the sequel to this book, should you find yourself wanting to read a story about werewolves, 13 to Life is worth a try, but there are much better werewolf stories to be found.
Rating: 2/5 Stars