THIRTEEN DAYS TO MIDNIGHT by Patrick Carman
Patrick Carman delivers an interesting take on his superheroish novel, Thirteen Days to Midnight. I was intrigued by his concept, and by his instant dismissal of the powers most people would wish for. I mean, flying is at the top of my list, but he makes a good argument against it, as he does with other superpowers.
The book excels at characterization. I really got into his main character, Jacob Fielding. I thought he was incredibly open and immediately engaging. The fifteen year old had a rough life, and the little bit of happiness he had was short-lived. I found myself wishing I could have read the story of how Jacob and his foster father had found each other and learned to fit in each other’s worlds.
But it is Jacob’s power that takes center stage almost from the beginning. The consequences follow. The beginning — done in media res — kind of threw me for a loop at the beginning, but I know it was there to draw readers into the story. Unfortunately, it doesn’t provide enough information to really ground the events that are going to play out in the pages without giving away too much. The opening pages of Chapter 1 aren’t really engaging enough to pull the reader comfortably into the tale. So I guess this lean hook is the best of both worlds.
Once the story begins and Jacob’s power is out in the open, done in a slow and subtle way so the readers don’t really see it in action until it’s almost over with, there’s no turning back. Especially when the dark side rears its scary face into the light and we know our heroes are really gonna have to think fast or die.
Milo Coffin is Jacob’s best friend and I like him a lot. More than anything, though, I love the bookstore Milo’s parents operate. Coffin’s Books would have been a major hangout for me if I’d been a kid there. The description of the shelves and the books reminded me of every great bookstore I ever found that was filled with old editions and beloved paperbacks where I learned about the world.
Ophelia James is called Oh, and she is likewise a great character. Where Milo kind of looks at the big picture and how he fits into it, Oh tends to look at the big picture and see where she can help. This push and pull between the two characters is interesting, and it reflects the indecision that plagues Jacob about his power.
I wish I could have seen more about the Houdini link, though. I was mostly satisfied with the explanation of the mysterious indestructibility that can be passed around, and I know that further exploration into the cause and effect of the power would have pushed things definitely into the fantasy category, but I wish there had been more.
The resolution to the problem and the plot is fantastic, though. And maybe a little sad. But it works.
I was also impressed by Carman’s introduction of the adults in the novel. Usually they have very small roles in YA books, but Father Tim and Mr. Coffin play pivotal roles.
I don’t know if Carman intends to write a sequel. The book stands on its own just fine, but I keep wondering about what might happen next. Especially with just enough left unexplained. But if the author chooses to write another book about Jacob Fielding, I’ll definitely pick it up.