Skip to main content

Review - 13 Minutes (Sarah Pinborough): The Call (Peadar O'Guilin)

Interestingly my two favourite books of the year have come from authors I met at Titancon last year - but that's coincidence rather than anything deliberate. Also interesting is that they are books I have shared or will reccommend to my kids (although different kids...)


A teenager's body is found in a lake, having been in the water for 13 minutes. So begins the intriguing premise of 13 minutes, a mystery novel for Young Adults - a genre I struggle to find a lot of books in (but that could be down to me exploring the wrong sections of the bookshelves).

It's always hard reviewing mysteries because I don't like to give spoilers away, and this one had me guessing to near the end.

The central characters are well drawn with a nice balance of shades of grey within the teenage world. There is no attempt to sugar-coat teenagers and their behaviour, but neither is there a focus on shocking the world with what goes on. Instead, what we have is a rounded view of their interactions and challenges.

The plot is well drawn, with great pace. I read this in about 5 days, my teenage daughter (not one to get to the end of books that don't engage) in our week's holiday. In fact, during that week the book went with her everywhere - the beach, the hotel, the car...

But, mostly for me, in this book it was the strong voices that I liked. Between the text-speech between two of the characters, to cross-generational interactions the voices didn't let up at all.

With the film rights already sold, iirc, this is a novel that hits the ground running, grabs your collar and keeps you turning the pages to the end.


This novel, for me, wins novel of the year, hands down and by a long margin. And I'm much relieved because I hate reading books by friends and not liking them.

At first glance, I did have a frisson of on-no. The book is in first person, present, a tense I struggle with. But about two pages in, I forgot about that, thoroughly hooked.

The premise is a good one - the island of Ireland has been cut off from the world by the vengeful Sidhe (Shee), who are taking teenagers from the world into theirs. The teen vanishes during this 'Call' for 3 minutes, 4 seconds, in the real world but must survive a day in the Sidhe world.

Firstly, this is dark. Deliciously so. I like me some dark and this is well done with just enough description to set our own imaginations to work, and plenty of fading away from the horror, assuming the reader can fill the blanks. I am going to let my almost-12 year old have a look and see if she likes it (she isn't too squeamish) but I think that choice will vary from child to child. Teens, on the other hand, will soak it up.

This is another book where the characters work. From the teens themselves, through to the teachers, we come to know them bit by bit and that pace works well. We see them as friends, or enemies, and come to care what will happen to them in the fairy land.

I really enjoyed the world building. The fairyworld - the land of Grey - was well depicted with none of the shortcuts you sometimes see in building the a secondary world when a story is mostly embedded in the real world. It's vivid (although colourless) and came alive easily.

I finished the book in two days. I will most likely re-read at some stage, something I rarely do with YA books. I will certainly be standing in line for the sequel.