Thirteen Days To Midnight by Patrick Carman

I haven’t done a book review in a while so I thought I’d talk about my latest read. I gave it three stars in Goodreads, but would probably have given it 3.5.

So I’ll confess to never having heard of Patrick Carman before (and after a google search, haven’t heard of any of his other books) but the reason I bought this book was—you guessed it: superheroes. It’s actually one of the books I bought during my YA rush at Spalding, looking for books with young protagonists who have superpowers. It didn’t make the “cut” list during the program and I’m just now getting around to reading it.

*SPOILER WARNING*

If I’d written this before reading the last 20 pages I’d have given it 4 stars, maybe even 4.5…but the ending left me cold.Thirteen Day To Midnight

In a quick nutshell: Jacob, the protagonist, is given power when the words “you are indestructible” are whispered to him before a car crash and he becomes indestructible. He learns he can give this indestructibility to others by saying the words and taking it back by doing the same. Problem is, whenever he takes it back again, he cheats “death” because of an old curse brought about by legendary magician Houdini. The cheated “deaths” begin to store up in his girlfriend and—because death is death—she begins to want to kill herself. In the end, he has to kill her repeatedly to account for all the cheated deaths.

Yeah, he kills her over and over again. And this is what happened at the end and what turned my stomach a bit. And, it’s touted a work for “teens.”

I think the idea was that Jacob realized what he was doing with the power before learning the truth (via a note in a box from a distant relative) that his assumptions were correct. So his killing his girlfriend is supposedly his way of setting things back to normal.

Yeah, I dunno. Something in me says it’s not a good idea to suggest that a teen with power needs to kill another teen in order to set her free from death so that she can live. Is this a reflection of our culture in which we do have issues with teens killing teens, or is this an encouragement for them to go out and kill someone else?

To be fair to Carman, I’m pretty sure that wasn’t his intent, but didn’t any of his first readers—or his editor—pick up on that? It’s a 2010 publication, so they can’t claim they didn’t know about Columbine, or Pearl, or…

The writing is tight and moves quickly. Jacob is an interesting character with some of the traditional qualities of a Cambell hero: orphaned, older mentor, etc. There’s a little language, but not more than you’d hear in a PG-13 movie—and in fact, he addresses that issue by having the main character trying to quit swearing, something I can applaud. Honestly, except for the killing sequence at the end, it’s a good read and I would have recommended it. It is NOT one I’ll be recommended to my own kids, though.

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