“Mean Girls for the Instagram age.” The Times (London)
The New York Times bestselling author known for her thrilling twists is back:
They say you should keep your friends close and your enemies closer, but when you're a teenage girl, it's hard to tell them apart.
Natasha doesn't remember how she ended up in the icy water that night, but she does know thisit wasn't an accident, and she wasn't suicidal. Her two closest friends are acting strangely, and Natasha turns to Becca, the best friend she dumped years before when she got popular, to help her figure out what happened.
Natasha's sure that her friends love her. But does that mean they didn't try to kill her?
13 Minutes is a psychological thriller with a killer twist from the #1 internationally bestselling author Sarah Pinborough.
|Product dimensions:||5.90(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.30(d)|
|Age Range:||17 - 18 Years|
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It's so cold, it's so cold I can't breathe and I panic hard in the water that is like shards of glass, and for the first time I think I might be in serious trouble. That I might end here. My white joggers and sweatshirt are so heavy in the freezing river. My lungs are raw and ice-scalded as I try to take shallow breaths, desperately keeping my chin above the water, but nothing is working, not my lungs, my limbs, or my brain. The cold is overwhelming. It burns through my veins like fire. If I can just reach the branches I might be able to pull myself to the bank, if I can just stop myself from going under — and what time is it, what time is it — and oh I can't feel my hands. The thin twigs are scalpels on my dying blue skin this is a terrible mistake and what time is it and ...
She was young. No more than eighteen. Probably less. Her hair could be blond or brown, it was hard to tell, soaked wet in the gloom. She was wearing white, bright against the dark river, almost an accent to the fresh snow that lay heavy on the ground. Her pale face, blue lips slightly parted, was turned up to the inky sky. She was snagged on twigs as if the bent branches, bare of leaves and broken by winter, had grasped to save her, to keep her afloat.
His breath steamed a harsh mist. He could hear his chest wheezing loud, although Biscuit's frantic barking, the alarm that had brought him from the path to the bank, seemed to be coming from somewhere far away. He couldn't move. It was five forty-five in the morning and there was a dead girl in the river.
I am a cliché, was his next coherent thought. I am the early-morning dog-walker who finds a body.
Biscuit ran in small darts up and down the dirty snow at the water's edge, furious, eager, disturbed by this change to their daily routine. By this wrong. The dog turned and whined at his owner, but still the man couldn't stop staring, fingers gripping the phone tucked deep in the pocket of his thick coat. And then he saw it. Just the slightest twitch of her hand. Still, he couldn't move.
The marbling hand jerked again and suddenly he felt the cold on his skin and his heart beating and could hear Biscuit's bark loud and clear and then the phone was at his ear and his voice added to the clamor. When he was done, he threw the phone down and pulled off his coat. The river would not claim this girl before her time.
The rest was a blur. The cold water on his legs that knocked the air from his lungs with the shock of it. Slipping. Almost submerged. Gasping. Numb fingers pulling her to the bank. The heaviness of her soaked clothes, the unexpected heaviness of his. Wrapping his coat around her limp body. The crispness of her soaked hair. No warm breath from her mouth. Talking to her through chattering teeth. Biscuit licking her frozen face. The sirens. The blanket wrapped around him. Come with me, please, Mr. McMahon, that's right, I'll help you. It's okay, we'll take it from here. Pulled up onto legs that wouldn't quite work and led to the ambulance. But not before he saw the grim faces. The shake of a head. The defibrillator.
The dreadful quiet as they worked. Him, the world, nature: all frozen. But not time. Time had ticked on. How many minutes? How long had they sat on the bank with her not breathing? How long before the ambulance arrived? Ten minutes? More? Less?
I've got a pulse! I've got a pulse!
And then his tears, hot and sudden, bursting up from deep inside.
Biscuit, beside him, pushed his stinking damp fur closer, paws scratching at his face, tongue on his cheeks, licking, snuffling, and whining. He wrapped his arm around the dog, pulled him under the blanket, and then looked up at the winter sky which was neither truly night nor morning and thought he'd never loved it more.
Saturday, 09:03 Jenny ur not picking up. Pick Up! OMFG.
09:08 Jenny ur fone on silent? WAKE UP!
09:13 Jenny I'm freaking out. My mum is crying. Think she's still drunk. Wants to go to the hospital. WTF??
09:15 Jenny PICK UP!!!!! WTF is going on?
09:17 Hayley Soz dad was in here!!! I'm shaking. WTFWTFWTF?? Will call from shower. Delete txts. Yesterdays 2. WTF??
09:18 Jenny K.
09:19 Hayley DON'T SAY ANYTHING.
Her mum's voice, loud and demanding, was a thorn in the meat of Becca's brain, and she pulled the duvet over her head to block it out and sink back into her half-sleep. It was Saturday. It was too early. Whatever time it was, it was too early. It was also cold. Her toes felt like ice and a draft was creeping through the gaps between the covers. She hooked them closer with her foot, cocooning herself.
"Rebecca! Come down! It's important!"
She didn't move. Whatever it was, it could wait. She breathed shallow, not wanting to come up for air. Her hair stank of smoke and her head ached slightly, a parting gift from last night's weed and tobacco.
"Now! I mean it!"
She pushed the covers off and sat up, angry. What the hell was so pressing? She scanned her bleary memory. No late-night snacking so no pizza boxes or Diet Coke cans abandoned in the kitchen. No TV left on. She'd double-bolted the door. All she'd done was come home, and smoke one last joint through her bedroom window before passing out in front of some shit comedy on Netflix. She wasn't even home late. She glanced at the open window and sighed. Good work, Bex. No wonder it's like Antarctica in here. At least there was no trace of stale smoke in the air.
"Becca!" A pause. "Please, darling!"
"Coming!" she shouted back, voice like gravel, head pounding with the effort. No more straight cigarettes, she thought, tugging on her joggers and pulling last night's sweatshirt over her head. Her chest felt like shit. Her room was ice-box cold and goosebumps shivered across her skin. Juice. She needed juice. And a cup of tea. And a bacon sandwich. Maybe going downstairs wasn't such a bad idea. At least it would be warm. But still, conversation with her mother first thing in the morning was not what she needed ever. She preferred to get up when they were all out. Have some quiet time that didn't require locking herself away in her room. Two more years and then she could escape to university. Out of this house, out of this suffocating town, and onward to freedom. London, maybe. A big city, definitely. Somewhere Aiden could come with her and work on his music career.
She scraped her hair back into a semblance of a ponytail, sprayed it with deodorant, and shuffled out of her sanctuary, grabbing her phone from the side of her bed. She pressed the home button for the time. Ten thirty-four.
Fourteen iMessages, six WhatsApps, and two missed calls. She frowned, confused by the list of names appearing. She wasn't that popular. She never woke up to fourteen texts, unless they were from Aiden when he was high and horny. She scrolled through as she headed downstairs. Mainly group texts. That figured. She was a social add-on. She didn't let the tiny needles sting. Like she gave a shit.
U heard the news?
Seen about Tasha Howland?
Crazy shit on the news!
U gotta see!
By the time she'd read them all and reached the kitchen she was wide awake.
Her mother was standing at the kitchen island watching the small TV in the corner. There was toast on a plate in front of her but she wasn't eating it. She didn't even look around, just stared, pale-faced, at the screen.
Becca's skin tingled, part apprehension, part strange thrill.
"What's happened to Tasha?" she asked. "My phone's gone mad."
Her mum turned then, wrapping herself around Becca's stiff frame, bathing her in the warm scent of foundation and citrus perfume. Even on a Saturday Julia Crisp made an effort. Her thin arms were all sinew and muscle beneath her cashmere sweater, and Becca instantly felt like the fat kid she'd once been all over again. Like mother, like daughter was not an adage that fitted them.
"It's terrible. She's in a coma. It's all over the news." Her mother's hand stroked her back but Becca pulled away, pretending to get a better view of the TV. Her mum made her feel uncomfortable. The teenage years had drawn lines between them that neither knew how to cross.
"I'm sure she'll be fine, darling. I'm sure she will."
"Was it a car accident?" Natasha in a coma? It couldn't be real. Shit like that didn't happen to girls like Natasha. It happened to girls like Becca.
She pulled up a stool and sat and watched, ignoring the buzz of her phone and her mother's bird-flutterings of care around her. Up onscreen Hayley and Jenny, red-eyed and yet still so perfect, hurried into the hospital, their parents clinging to them like dry autumn leaves to wool. The other two Barbies. Of course they were there. Rushing to their beloved leader's side.
"I know you two used to be close, darling, do you want to —"
"Shh." She silenced her mother without even a glance as the reporter, nose red in the blistering cold, pushed back the hair blowing into her face and spoke into the microphone with that insincere sincerity only TV journalists had.
An hour later, Becca was standing on the small balcony at Aiden's flat, shivering alongside him as he sparked up a Marlboro Light. He held out the packet and she took one, despite her resolve of that morning. Fuck it. Anyway, it was too early for a joint, and even in the relaxed sloppy atmosphere of Aiden's mum's place, obvious drugs were a no-go. She might suspect he toked — she must be able to smell it coming out of his bedroom — but she was a long way from condoning it.
"They say she was dead for thirteen minutes." Becca shuffled from foot to foot to ward off the icy air while they smoked. "They're calling it a miracle that they revived her."
"She's lucky it got so cold." Aiden stared out over the snow that had fallen heavy since dawn. Becca thought he looked angelic against the white and gray that coated the world. Maybe not an angel as others thought of them, but her angel all the same. Pale face, sharp features, thick dark hair, and those clear eyes that shone bright blue from under his long fringe. An angel or a vampire. Either way, she still sometimes had to pinch herself to believe he was hers.
"That's probably what saved her," he said. "The water would have been freezing — dropped her temperature so fast it put her heartbeat into some kind of survival mode."
"It's weird, though, huh? To be dead and then not dead?" Becca said. "Thirteen minutes is a long time."
"Wonder if she saw anything. You know — bright lights, that sort of shit."
"Knowing Natasha, even if she didn't she'll say she did when she wakes up." It was a sharp comment but she couldn't help it. Her feelings about Natasha were a ball of wire she couldn't untangle. She missed her old childhood friend, but she didn't know the new Barbie Natasha. Her Natasha had braces and liked Chess Club. Her Natasha had been her Best Friend Forever. Becca hadn't realized at the time that forever would only last until Natasha's tits grew and her braces came off and suddenly she was hot and Becca was a dumpy geek who got swiftly discarded.
"If she wakes up," Aiden said, exhaling a long cloud of smoke. "The news said she was unconscious. She might have brain damage or something."
Becca tried to imagine that. She'd seen images of brain-damaged people on TV and they never looked quite the same as they did before. Natasha dying would at least be beautifully tragic. Natasha brain-damaged and hooked up to machines that let her shit and piss while she dribbled into soup for the rest of her life was horrifying.
"What was she doing out there, anyway?" Aiden asked. "In the woods at night? You reckon someone took her?"
"Dunno." Becca shrugged. "No one else seems to, either. Everyone's too busy being hysterical over it to say anything useful." The hive, as she thought of their school sometimes, had been buzzing since the news broke. Texts, WhatsApps, Instagram pictures of Natasha's beautiful smiling face, tweets of everyone's shock and upset, the whole school proclaiming how much they loved her, as if somehow a part of what had happened to her could be theirs, too. #Tasha4eva was probably trending by now. The hum from it was electric. It fizzed under her skin.
Becca had not uploaded any old photos to her Instagram account, or to her Facebook or Twitter. Partly, she'd not had time. More honestly, she didn't have that many followers, and, finally, because of the round of Did you see what Becca Crisp posted? Clinging to the glory days! texts behind her back that would no doubt follow.
And although she'd hated Tasha for a while, when she'd so unceremoniously dumped Becca and replaced her with Jenny, the new trio all Barbie-doll perfect, that shit had been a long time ago and there was nothing Tasha would hate more than for the world to be reminded of her bad hair and bad teeth of childhood. Even now, Becca wouldn't do that to her.
"There was that girl who went missing over in Maypoole a couple of months ago," Aiden said. "Maybe it's the same guy."
"She probably just ran away." Becca threw the cigarette stub into the mug on the table to join the others rotting in the inch of thick brown water at the bottom. Her mouth was dry and her feet freezing. She sniffed.
"Shall we go inside? Watch a movie?"
Aiden looked at her, thoughtful, and the hairs on the back of her neck prickled slightly under his scrutiny. "Don't you want to go to the hospital?" he said.
"Why?" She smarted suddenly. "Do you? Feeling the need to check on the damsel in distress?"
He laughed at that, and then pulled her close. "You're such a dick. I asked her out once. Nearly two years ago. Before I had better taste."
She breathed in the leather smell of his jacket. He was hers. She knew it. There was nothing worse than sounding needy; there was nothing worse than being needy. Why hadn't she kept her mouth shut?
"I know." She exhaled hot air onto her own trapped face. He stepped away from her.
"I don't give a shit about Natasha Howland. But she was your best friend for years. You should go. For her parents if nothing else."
It was almost exactly what her mother had said before Becca had grabbed her coat and said she was going out. Somehow it sounded more reasonable coming from Aiden.
"Okay," she said, eventually. Reluctantly. "Okay, maybe we should go." She looked up at him and kissed his cigarette-stale mouth with her own. "But can we stop at McDonald's on the way? I'm starving."
He grinned. "That's why you're my girl. All class." His phone buzzed and he checked it, frowning as he read the text. "Man, that's weird."
"I've got to go to the hospital too. But have to stop and pick up some stuff first. It's Jamie. He's there too."
It was odd seeing Natasha's mother, Alison Howland, so fragile and weepy, and somehow Becca found herself crying too, hot, wet sobs that sprang out of nowhere and hurt her chest. Gary Howland stood between them, one hand awkwardly on their backs, unsure of his place in this sea of feminine emotion. His jaw was tight and his eyes slightly too wide, but other than that and the stiffness in his spine, it was hard to tell if he was feeling anything at all.
"It's so kind of you to come, Rebecca," Alison said, wiping away snotty tears. Always Rebecca with Mrs. Howland, never Becca or Bex, just like Tasha was always Natasha. "You're a good girl. You were a good friend to Natasha." Were. Becca said nothing to that, just gave a vague nod. Alison was as aware as anyone that Becca was no longer part of the inner circle. The inner circle were standing to one side, their carefully made-up eyes delicately bleary, both checking their phones. Hayley and Jenny. Almost identical and yet so different.
Where Jenny was sensual soft and estate chic, Hayley was middle-class athletic. A hard body. She didn't climb trees anymore, but when she abandoned her tomboy ways she hadn't given up sport. She was the fastest runner in the school. Never caught without lip gloss. And always with the shortest shorts no matter how many times she was told to change them. The two girls didn't look at Becca and she turned her attention back to Alison Howland.
"I just ... I just wanted to show my support," Becca said eventually. "My mum sends her love too." That was middle-ground enough. "I'm sure Tasha'll be fine. I'm sure of it."
Excerpted from "13 Minutes"
Copyright © 2017 Sarah Pinborough.
Excerpted by permission of Flatiron Books.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Plot twist! Recommended fully.
The plot was so shocking and refreshing
Well here I was patting myself on the back because I had it all figured out. Yeah, sure I did! Then I realize I'm only halfway through the book! Let me tell you the rest of the story blew me away! In general, I stay away from "mean girl" books and movies although PLL did suck me in big time for years. I honestly can say that despite not caring a crap about any of the characters in the book, I had a very hard time putting this book down. It is a great twisty story and though listed as a YA book, I wouldn't recommend it to YA readers. Way too much sex, drugs, and lies for this parent's comfort level. This is definitely a book I'm passing on to my 20ish daughter who teaches these creatures that honestly at times I didn't even recognize as human beings. Through most of the story, my one thought as a parent would be the horror of knowing that you had birthed and raised some of these girls. This is a book that is told from alternating POVs, diary entries and texts. Ordinarily this style would piss me off royally as it drags me out of the story but (and it kills me to say this) it works here. Had I know up front this was the writing style, I'd have probably walked away as I have from so many other YA books. I guess I'm just going to have to accept this style if I continue to read YA books but I don't have to like it. That said, I'm glad and scared that I enjoyed the ride.