Fifteen year old Jacob has been in the foster care system since he was two, and like other boys older than ten, realized he was never going to be adopted. So what a surprise when Jonathan Fielding comes into his life. Both are too old to be “father and son”, but they bond in their mutual mission as connoisseurs of the perfect breakfast. Sadly, this burgeoning friendship ends abruptly with a fatal car accident in the misty woods of Oregon, and Jacob is orphaned once again. Well, not quite. This time, he is left with an odd sort of family, consisting of a Church Home filled with priests, mostly retired “old farts”, oblivious to their bodily noises, scratching and phlegm, but a caring family nonetheless. Jacob attends Holy Cross High School, and his best friend Milo Coffin has cool parents who own Coffin Books, selling rare books, paranormal and occult paraphernalia. When the story begins, it has been a week since the accident, and as Jacob makes the painful transition back to school, he meets the new girl – Ophelia James, a beautiful blond with a long board and a pink cast. And that is when the real trouble begins…
This book was not what I expected. At all. When I first picked it up, I knew it was Patrick Carman’s first young adult novel and that it had something to do with super powers. My husband Bill is a comic book fan, so I had a fair idea of what a super hero story might entail, but the foreboding cover art had me pretty sure it would not include neon spandex.
Whoa – the woodsie, mysterious cover was an understatement. By the end of the story, I was a little unnerved. There are some deeply disturbing moments, and some down right scary ones. Right away, the reader is challenged to start thinking. What super power would you choose? What would be the consequences? Trust me, you’re not likely to guess the horrible consequences of this super power.
I’m not going to announce “spoiler alert” exactly, BUT, in this review of the super power, some of the story (but not all) may be revealed. So headzup! Jacob Fielding is a boy with several secrets. The most critical, newly discovered realization that he is indestructible, is the first secret he shares with best friend Milo and the dazzling Ophelia (Oh). However, he withholds the most vital and telling aspect – that when he passes the power to another person, it behaves more like a monster than a blessing.
So… Jacob is indestructible, and he can pass it to any one person. Oh has the same reaction many of us might have… our comic book culture has conditioned us to believe if we are blessed with a special gift, we should use it to help people. Save the world (save the cheerleader). This is of course, assuming it is a “nice” power from the nebulous super hero world where powers are acquired by being a crash landed alien, or be bitten by a mutated spider, or heck, maybe you are super rich, smart and a tad touched, flying around at night fighting crime in a bat suit.
But… what if your power isn’t from this universal place of goodness? What if it’s not a super power at all, though it’s easy to make that assumption with the indestructibility and all. Kinda Superman/ Unbreakable-ish, right? But what if “it” is actually an independent living being, summoned by black magic, wrestled into our reality long ago against its will, surviving by taking residence in the soul of a human being like a dark parasite? Um, so not the same. (And über-cool, btw). So since it’s here unnaturally, by force, its mere presence throws off the balance of life. Its host is cursed to live like an immortal, or a vampire (sans the blood sucking and sun phobia stuff), burdened until he chooses a new host (victim), then die. Curse. Not gift. So not. Therefore, by the end, I realized this is not a “classic” super hero story, at all. I just couldn’t tell if the it was more horror (monster?), or paranormal (what IS the black lion?), or even more frightening, like spiritual warfare (demon?). Now why would I say that? Well….
Jacob’s guardian, Father Tim, made some revealing remarks about old faith, and how to “keep it ticking”. He told Jacob that faith never stays put, that it is always challenging, always questioning and that’s what makes it real. The older you get, and the more life experiences you have, the more you have to constantly reevaluate your faith. At one point Father Tim challenges his students by asking, what is hell? We see the power’s behavior, we experience first hand what the “rules” are, but we have no idea what it is or where it came from. Summoned by a dark magician… is it from hell? Is hell merely another dimension? Dude…
All I knew was that Mr. Carman was able to believably transform a hip, happy California hotty into a vicious corpse like monster, then back again. As the boys put the pieces together from Houdini’s invention, Mr. Coffin’s hints and Mr. Fielding’s notes, I was truly terrified of Ophelia James and would so not have wanted to run into Miss Death Obsessed in the woods. And I thought Joe Bush was scary! And even scarier? The awful truth of the only way to save her and set things right… that’s when Carman takes us down a really dark road. I was like, no, no NO! You’re not going there!! *Visual of the home-alone kid*. But “thar” they went… they had to. “God doesn’t make mistakes…” Disturbing? Yes. Upsetting? Quite. Did it make me think? Oh yeah. I was actually haunted for days after reading this book. I mean, in a good way.
A book for teens? Definitely. For guys? Yes, it’s all from Jacob’s perspective, and nothing makes that more clear than when he catches his first glimpse of the curvaceous blond. For girls? Oh yes, teenage girls will be able to relate to Oh as she is desperately driven to help people, has a new boyfriend who is inexplicably resistant to this need, but then unable to deal with the foreign emotions as the Black Lion invades her soul (isn’t that like the definition of a teen?). Responsibility? Readers experience that heavy weight – who lives, who dies, who are we to decide? And what was the real reason Jacob was adopted…?
I was happy (okay, relieved!) with how this story ended. The teens were left with at least ways to “deal” and move on. But so much more could happen in a sequel (and a prequel!). Maybe find out what the Black Lion truly is, where it came from and, I dunno, send it back? 🙂 What was taken from our world in its place all this time? And more more more back story with Houdini and magic (yeah baby!).
Creepy! Why are we looking at the inside of a wrecked car? Like many of Patrick Carman’s books, Thirteen Days is multimedia storytelling! At this time, included are a Facebook fanpage and a game website so the story continues! Click here to see the ongoing 13dtm Alternate Reality Game (ARG) Can you find the objects in the car? What story do they tell?
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Great new video!