Thursday, 18 June 2015

LBOY2015 Shortlist Review #2: 'Thirteen' by Tom Hoyle

'Thirteen' by Tom Hoyle
Review by Megan Winchester



Born at midnight in London on the stroke of the new millennium, Adam is the target of a cult that believes boys born at this time must die before the end of their thirteenth year.

Twelve have been killed so far.

Coron, the crazy cult leader, will stop at nothing to bring in his new kingdom. And now he is planning a bombing spectacular across London to celebrate the sacrifice of his final victim: Adam


"I have been sent to find this child, and I will not disappoint my master.  You will tell me where he is."  Desperation erupted inside him.  It was nearly 3 p.m.  "TELL ME."  He stepped closer.  "HE. MUST. DIE…

"Thirteen is a dangerous, dangerous book.  The chapters are so short – dangerously short. The plot is fast and exciting and dark.  The writing is so easy to read.  And it is seriously freaking addictive.  I began reading and was instantly hooked.  Thirteen is really plot-based so it's hard for me to write this review without giving anything awa.  I will say that Thirteen is damn near impossible to put down – it is just so gripping, so creeptastic.  I do have some niggles with the book as a whole, but I seriously enjoyed the story.

Everything is set in third-person and you get to watch a few of the characters (including some members of The People – which is terrifying).  But I don't really feel like I knew any of the characters very well, not even Adam: the protagonist.  I found that irritating but, personally, the utter addictiveness of the plot and creepiness of the cult made up for the poor character development.  Also, whilst under-developed, the characters are all so interesting – the bad guys in particular.

Adam was pretty believable – he definitely felt like a thirteen-year-old boy.  He has to deal with some serious stuff, but the way he responds feels real – as real as his unlucky and extreme circumstances allow him to be!  Poor boy.  He's also brave and stubborn, and a quick-thinker.  But, like I said before, I didn't know him.  I liked him: he's an interesting character to read about, but how little I knew about him annoyed me.

Megan is a brilliant character – probably my favourite (and not just because we share a name).  She's the most the most rounded character, mainly because of her loyalty and friendship to Adam, which is so sweet and unshakeable.

Unfortunately, Thirteen carries with it, a real pet peeve of mine: absent, incompetent or unbelievable grown-ups.  Seriously, the parents are worryingly inept. I mean, really!  No half-decent parent would do some of the things that the parents in Thirteen do.  They're irritatingly unbelievable.

But, ooh, now I get to the most exciting (and terrifying) group of characters: The People!  This cult is freaking terrifying.  I mean, all cults are, but this: *shudders*.   Coron, the leader, is so disturbing, but they're all so fanatical; their beliefs so twisted and violent; bloody and elaborate. The children, in particular, freaked me out!  And the punishments.  The killings.  Again: *shudders*.

The writing is so addictive and so easy to read, written in simple, snappy sentences that really commanded my attention. It's a little simplistic at times and the descriptions weren't the best, but it makes the story move so much faster. The author really captures the disturbing elements of the cult, and heightens the ever-building suspense at all the right moments. It's unpredictable too – I never knew what was going to happen next, who was going to die next...  No one was safe!  However, the ending did feel a little rushed but I guess I'll just need to read book two then, won't I?

I found the cult theme fascinating and, as I said earlier (and can’t stress enough) utterly terrifying.  As part of my sociology, I had to research cults and therefore, I know a lot about them.  But my brothers didn't even know what a cult was – obviously they don’t watch as much Criminal Minds as I do.  I think the way Thirteen tackles cults is brilliant – The People are so fanatical and just scary as hell!  Also, what a way for kids to learn all about cults!  And be scared out of their minds.  Yay!

I’m not going to lie to you: I'm really not sure where to place Thirteen on the age spectrum.  On the one hand, Adam and his friends are thirteen and ergo, so young and innocent and un-teenager-y in a lot of ways (which I actually like since there's so little naivety in YA these days).  But on the other hand, there is so very much death and the cult is so dark and scary. It's a really weird mix of middle-grade and young-adult aspects. Odd, but interesting and Adam and his friends' innocence at the beginning does make the darkness of the cult-children even more jarring and terrifying.

Thirteen was definitely a fascinating and exciting read, if a bit inconsistent.  But given that it's Hoyle's debut novel, I forgave the niggles.  Thirteen absolutely gripped me – I read it all in a single sitting, staying up far too late to finish reading.  I am also so desperate to read the next book, Spiders. I really do enjoy (twisted though it might be) dark books like this on cults and I really did adore the fast-paced action, suspense and bloodiness of Thirteen.  

It might not be perfect, but it had this book lover totally addicted for all three-hundred pages. If you liked the Lorien Legacies series by Pittacus Lore, Empty Coffin by Gregg Olsen or the FAYZ series by Michael Grant, you'll love Thirteen.

Rating: 4/5 Stars  ★ ★ ★ ★ 

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