I am so happy I finally read this book. Once I found time, I flew through it (yay for road trips!). I was a bit concerned that I’d have trouble getting back into a werewolf story after not reading any for awhile, but I was wrong. I think it was probably the fact that the werewolf component isn’t slapping you in the face, and really doesn’t emerge until a lot later in the book. This book was more about character development and setting up the relationships between the characters. I really enjoyed the way Shannon Delany did that.
Jess is just getting over the loss of her mother, and trying to stabilize her life with school and chores on the farm. The last thing she needs (and wants) is to be showing the new boy around school and having him intrude in her life and change everything. Change is the last thing she needs. Pietr is very mysterious and Russian and sexy. Jess can’t deny that there’s something about him that pulls her in, but she tries to keep their relationship platonic. Besides, one of her best friends, Sarah, is really interested in Pietr, so she does her best to back off. She’s the kind of person who thinks of others before herself.
I loved seeing the relationship grow between Jess and Pietr. They have that undeniable attraction to one another that they (well, Jess) try to ignore. Since they are trying to avoid a romantic relationship, they instead become really close friends, the kind that are always there for you when you need them. This isn’t the typical relationship development you see in YA (or any) books because most people just want to get to the romance of it all. I have to say I’m guilty of being one of those people. But Shannon gave me a different outlook, where the characters were made out to be just really good friends, but with that forbidden romance. It was really fun to read.
Having written the book this way, Shannon gives us a chance to see the backstories of the characters. I don’t want to give it away, but Jess’s story of her mom’s death was so heart-wrenching. It made me tear up a bit and I could feel my heart hurting. Pietr’s home life isn’t the best either, and they are able to share stories and sympathize with one another. It definitely makes them closer, better friends, in my opinion.
The secondary characters were all really great, too. I loved Jess’s best friend Amy. She’s the kind of girl who is brutally honest to Jess, which is exactly what she needs. Jess tries to fool herself and Amy smacks her in the face with a big pile of reality. It may be tough for Jess, but Amy does the right thing and she’s always there for her. They have an awesome relationship. I also liked Jess’s sister and Pietr’s sister. They were both cute characters who always added a bit of something to the scene’s they were in.
Overall, I love the way Shannon outlined her story by really developing the characters and their relationships. Allowing us to see into their pasts gives us a better outlook on the characters themselves and why they act the way they do. Everything climaxed perfectly in the end and it was very suspenseful. Because I felt like I knew Jess so personally, I worried about her a lot in those last few chapters. Shannon left 13 to Life on a cliffhanger, which makes me really want to read the next one. Thankfully, Secrets and Shadows just came out last week, so I can go pick it up this week!
If you’d like to read 13 to Life, pick up a copy for yourself!