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Thirteen Days to Midnight, by Patrick Carman

Updated on February 29, 2016

Before Reading

I was between books (my definition of "between books" is that I only had one book that I was currently reading, instead of two or three) and so I decided to browse the ebooks at my local library for something to download. And lo and behold, I found a 2011 book by Patrick Carman. I have liked nearly everything I've read by Carman (the "Floors" series is, I think, the lone exception), so I took a chance.

Okay, let's get one of the things that bothered me right out there to begin with -- the names. "Thirteen Days to Midnight" is in the first person, which isn't normally a problem, except that the protagonist's name is Jacob. I think. Or is it Joshua? Jason? One minute. I'll be right back.

I was right the first time. His name is Jacob. This is my own idiosyncrasy here, but I always get the names Jacob, Jason, and Joshua confused. Also Michelle and Melissa, but fortunately there was no Michelle or Melissa. I wonder if anyone else has that problem; if I wrote a romance novel in which the central pairing was a Jacob and a Michelle or a Joshua and a Melissa (or maybe a Jacob and a Melissa) and randomly changed among the names, would anyone but me never notice? The fact that the novel used first-person narration meant that the reader doesn't see the protagonist's name as often as he or she would in a third-person novel, so even after I'd read the book for the second time, I still wasn't entirely certain which "J" name Carman gave to the protagonist.

Now, onto the second naming problem. One of the two secondary characters is a stunningly beautiful, but geeky, girl named Ophelia, "Oh," for short. There were several places where a character addressed her, but instead, I read it as startlement. "Oh! Come over here!"

Aside from that, "Thirteen Days to Midnight" was a pretty good book. The book begins with Jacob asking us the question which super power we would choose if we could choose a super power. For the record, you can find my answer in my review for Diane Duane's "A Wizard of Mars."

As the book progresses, we find that Jacob has a super power. He is indestructible. Jacob was removed from his biological mother's custody when he was very young and he bounced around in the foster care system for over a decade, until he ended up with a good fit in Jonathan Fielding. Jacob and "Mr. Fielding," as he calls his foster father, spend their Saturdays driving around in search of new restaurants to have breakfast at. On one of these trips, the car hits a tree and at the last second, Fielding says the words, "You are indestructible" to Jacob. No one should have survived the crash; but Jacob did.

The full import of the words does not hit Jacob until later, when he signs Ophelia's cast (she is a skateboarder and recently broke her arm) with those words, and when Ophelia takes a terrible fall and rises unscathed, Jacob starts to realize that the words "You are indestructible" have some kind of power to actually grant indestructibility.

So Jacob, Ophelia, and their friend Milo begin to experiment on what this power can accomplish. They see if they can pass it among themselves (it can go no further than one person past Jacob -- Jacob can pass it to one person, but that person cannot pass it to anyone else) and whether Jacob has to like the person that he passes it to (he doesn't) and whether Jacob has to be physically near the person he passes it to (he doesn't) and if he has to know the person he passes it to (he doesn't). Ophelia decides that Jacob should use the power, which they refer to as a "diamond," to keep people from knowing what they're talking about, to become a superhero, but when Jacob refuses, she convinces him to let her have the power so that she can become a superhero.

All of this experimentation makes sense to me, since Jacob and Ophelia are only 15 and Milo is only 16. They're idiots, and that's kind of expected at that age. And since their judgment is not that great, by the time they get some important information that Mr. Fielding had left for Jacob, they discover that they may have created a problem that it will be impossible to extricate themselves from. And what follows is one of the darkest scenes that I think I have ever read in any kids' or young adults' books ever.

I need to also warn for one scene of substance use. The substance in this instance is tobacco (in the form of pipe tobacco), but since the kids are too young to be smoking legally, I figured I should warn for it. There's also a head-scratching sort of folk etymology regarding the term "Argyle." Somehow Oh has it in her head that the diamonds on Argyle patterned sweaters and socks are the result of the Argyle diamond mine in Australia. The problem with this theory is that the Argyle pattern dates back to the 1700s and the Argyle mine has only been in existence since 1985. I know, they're stupid teenagers, but some reader is going to think that there is a causal connection going the other way and his or her history or English teacher will not be terribly pleased.

The ending is surprisingly dark. We eventually find the true nature of the "diamond" and the consequences that are brought upon the kids as a result are harrowing.

Overall, I really liked "Thirteen Days to Midnight." If you are looking for something fluffy and devoid of darkness, though, I'll recommend you look elsewhere.

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