A ward of the state for most of his life, Jacob has bounced from home to home until landing with the eccentric and mildly iconoclastic Mr. Fielding-who, when the car they're in hits a tree at 60 miles an hour, dies, but not before passing on an unusual attribute. And with the same three simple words, the 15-year-old forever alters his life and the lives of his two friends, Milo and Ophelia, as he passes along his power of invulnerability. Using the power for altruistic purposes after a period of extreme experimentation, Jacob learns that protection from death comes with a steep price. Instead of offering a horror movie rip-off, Carman explores survivor's guilt and raises theological issues, all within an action-packed and twisted tale. Ophelia's haunting breakdown adds a second layer of complexity to the narrative, though Milo seems to avoid any sort of development. Mr. Fielding's journals offer slightly more exposition than is necessary, but the author pulls the story together without too heavy a hand. Page-turning suspense through the end. (Thriller. YA)
In this largely successful contemporary dark fantasy, Carman's first book for YA readers, 15-year-old Jacob Fielding has both a secret power and a guilty secret. He is literally indestructible—nothing can hurt him—but gaining this newfound ability cost the life of his kindly but mysterious foster father. When Jacob discovers that he can share his invulnerability with others, he, his friend Milo, and the school's new girl, Oh, test its limits (in cringe-inducing scenes involving a lighter, a 12-foot fall onto a lamp, and a batting cage) and begin using it to save lives. But they learn that playing God—even with the intent to help—has consequences, and as Oh becomes increasingly obsessed with borrowing Jacob's indestructibility, he realizes the power has a dark will of its own, with “unrelenting claws digging into my bones like a cancer.” The novel occasionally suffers from moments of incoherence and its attempts at moral complexity can seem forced, but it produces serious chills and should appeal to readers who have grown out of Carman's Atherton and Land of Elyon series. Ages 12-up. (Apr.)
VOYA - Stacey Hayman
Jacob, now fifteen, had been in foster homes since he was a toddler. Mr. Fielding met Jacob over a year ago and saw something special. He adopted Jacob and gave him a permanent home until the recent car accident that took his life. They were both in the car but Jacob survived only because Mr. Fielding passed Jacob his power of indestructibility. On Jacob's first day back at school, he meets the hot, new girl Ophelia and falls in love at first sight. Saving Oh from seriously hurting herself forces Jacob to share his secret. Oh becomes obsessed with trying to figure out how and why they should try to prevent certain people from dying. But how do you make that kind of choice and what are the consequences for changing someone's fate? In the end, Oh's desire to save the world becomes her own undoing. The drama of how this dangerous power changes the teens is lost in convoluted explanations and odd story lines that go nowhere. The horrible method needed to counteract the change comes too late to provide much of a spine-chilling thrill. A brief explanation of Mr. Fielding's history with the power brings an unexpected reference to Harry Houdini but no real idea what Jacob is meant to do with the power or how it will affect his everyday existence. Reviewer: Stacey Hayman
Children's Literature - Cynthia Levinson
Parentless Jacob Fielding has just lost his guardian in an automobile accidentan accident in which he, too, should have died. Just before the crash, Jacob heard the man he called Mr. Fielding say, "I am indestructible." And, then, ironically it seemed, he died. Jacob's best friend, Milo, Milo's girlfriend, Ophelia, Father Tim, and others at the Catholic school he attends are sympathetic. But, Jacob is haunted. It turns out that Mr. Fielding's statement is an incantation that has dark magical powers. It makes its one-at-a-time owner not only impervious to pain and injury but also immortal. Should Jacob hold onto this superpower so he can live forever unblemished? Or, should he give it away to save someone else's life? If he does bestow it on someone else, will that person use it morally? Will the world be, in some way, out of balance because a life that was supposed to be extinguished persists? After all, Father Tim explains to Jacob, it is God who determines life and death, not a teenager. Jacob confronts these issues when, because of his actions, Ophelia disappears. Structured as a thirteen-day countdown, this novel of a boy who discovers that superpowers are a mixed blessing, relates, in a voice that speaks directly to teenaged readers, a suspenseful story with believable, sympathetic characters. It also raises questions of morality, authority, friendship, and faith. Readers at various levels and with a range of tastes will find this an absorbing and provocative book. Reviewer: Cynthia Levinson
School Library Journal
Gr 7–10—Jacob Fielding, 15, is holding onto a number of secrets—including the truth behind the accident that killed his foster father, but which he survived without a scratch. While keeping some of his secrets to himself, Jacob reveals to his friends Milo and Oh that just before his death, Mr. Fielding gave Jacob the power of invincibility with three words: "You are indestructible." With Oh's prompting, Jacob and his friends try to use the power to save people. However, without a full understanding of the mysterious gift, they may have inadvertently caused much more damage than they could have anticipated. Steven Boyer skillfully narrates Patrick Carman's gripping supernatural thriller (Little, Brown 2010). His youthful voice is consistently believable as teenage Jacob, and his pacing is excellent. Listeners will be on the edge of their seats, cringing at some of the descriptions while mulling over the ethical dilemmas created by Jacob's unique situation.—Amanda Raklovits, Champaign Public Library, IL
Read an Excerpt
Thirteen Days to Midnight
By Carman, Patrick
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers Copyright © 2010 Carman, Patrick
All right reserved.
Jacob Fielding stood in a small room and stared at a body. It was a dead body, someone he could have saved but chose not to. Jacob had let the person die because, in his view, it was the right thing to do.
He watched in silence, felt the air in his lungs catch and flutter as he tried to stay calm. What was he going to do now? How could he explain? People wouldn’t understand. They’d say he was a killer.
The body hadn’t moved in the seven minutes Jacob Fielding stared at it, but it had made some unpleasant sounds that would lodge in his memory and prove difficult to get rid of.
“All of us play the same tune sooner or later,” Jacob’s best friend said. “The black symphony of the dead.”
Milo Coffin with the dyed hair and the dark humor. He of all people would know.
Jacob took out Mr. Fielding’s Zippo lighter and flicked it open, searching for a distraction. He heard the clank of metal and the sandpaper jingle of fire coming to life.
He held the flame under his fingers and wished it would burn, but it didn’t.
Jacob Fielding had come to believe that death was his closest friend. It was there when he stood in front of the mirror in the morning, there when he wrote and talked and slept. Death was always watching, trying to decide if the time had come to step into the spotlight.
Jacob Fielding was an expert in his field, and death was his subject.
It was the enemy he had come to love.
THIRTEEN DAYS TO MIDNIGHT
Excerpted from Thirteen Days to Midnight by Carman, Patrick Copyright © 2010 by Carman, Patrick. Excerpted by permission.
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