13 Days To Midnight by Patrick Carman

April 16, 2012
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13 Days to Midnight: A Tale of Love and Hate, and Life and Death, and Some Other, Gory Stuff
The psychologist and philosopher William James once said “Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.” This is certainly true for Jacob Fielding, who, by saying three words can save any number of people’s lives. Jacob Fielding, in Patrick Carman’s 13 Days to Midnight, is faced with an incredible ethical problem that no one, especially a teenager should have to deal with. Who deserves to live or die? This Young Adult novel draws upon the average teenager’s lust for danger, love, and mystery to form a tale of upmost suspense that is exceedingly hard to put down… and Carman does all this and still mamages to tell a weighty morality tale of playing God.

Jacob Fielding, a teenager who lives in a church house along with four retired priests and attends a private school with a dwindling population has just lost his beloved foster father. Now it turns out that he is not only invincible, but has the ability to share this gift with one person at a time. By saying the words ‘You are invincible’ and picturing a specific face, anyone one person at a time can cheat death. Milo gained this ability after his foster-fathers sudden death, when he said those three words to Jacob. His best and semi-goth friend Milo, and new and incredibly attractive girlfriend, Ophelia (or Oh) decide that this power should be used to help people, so they have Jacob give it to captives, lost hikers, or stranded children. However, despite the fantastic amount of good these children are doing, there is a major problem: the power does not want out, or even back in meaning that the more Jacob share this gift, the harder it is to give it or to take it back. Also, Jacob, Oh, and Milo begin to feel the strain of being ‘superheros’. Since Jacob can only share the power with one person at a time, they have to pick and choose who gets the power, therefore deciding who lives or dies, and eventually, it is too hard. Furthermore, there is something that Jacob is not telling his friends about his life before the story picks up. This is a major source of curiosity for Milo and Oh, and a major inner conflict for Jacob.

Jacob, Oh, and Milo make up a band to rival Peter Pan’s ‘Lost Boys’ in that they are all different, mismatched and the majority of them are missing parents. Like the ‘Lost Boys’ these children love adventure. However, unlike certain, fairy-tale rogues, this trio is not always faithful to their leader. Oh yearns to be able to experiment with invincibility on her own. Milo feels like a third wheel when Oh and Jacob start to become more than friends, and Jacob struggles with his past, present, and future. He has something that he is not telling us, and it seems to have something to do with the day Mr. Fielding died in an accident and gave Jacob the Diamond, or invincibility.
Of course 13 Days To Midnight seems like a fantastic tale, what with the invincibility and all, but Oh, Milo, and Jacob have such great personality and chemistry, that one feels that they are real. For example, Milo does not trust Oh, and Jacob goes over to talk to him at their favorite hang-out space, the dilapidated attic of Coffin Books. Milo tells Jacob that he feels like something weird is happening and Jacob tells Milo 99% of the truth about recent events and how he had withheld the truth before. “There are some things I need to tell you, Milo. Not Oh, or Father Tim, or anyone else, just you.” (page 221) He proceeds to spill his guts in the way that one can only spill to a good friend. The point of this is to show that they are real people, despite the fact that this is a fiction book, and that is all thanks to Patrick Carman’s writing skill.
The realistic characters are not the only reason I gave four stars to Patrick Carman’s 13 Days to Midnight. Carman uses mystery, love, and death to call upon all of our darker sides. This is a hard book to put down. How could you stop when you want to know more of Oh’s superhero plans for Jacob, how Mr. Fielding really died, and what will go wrong… or what is already wrong? My personal favorite scene is when Jacob, Milo, and Oh are at the batting cages and Oh unveils her questions and plans for Jacob. That scene takes away some of the mystery by Oh clearly outlining what they already know, but adds some new mystery when she asks “What is J[acob] not telling us?” (page 86). Well, Carman has already shared part of the mystery with us. Jacob is hiding something about the mysterious, magician-loving Mr. Fielding, who died in a car accident. Carman tantalizes us with clues and we are desperate to know more about what Jacob is hiding.
There is only one flaw in this fantastic book to make it imperfect. 13 Days to Midnight is 396 pages long, yet the real action does not pick up until page 205. For a book with such an exciting topic, invincibility, some may feel that the waiting is inexcusable. However, others may say that it was incredible planning, and that Carman is playing with expectations. Take your pick. Despite this minor – or major – flaw, 13 Days to Midnight is an extremely intense, and thought-provoking book.

In fact, 13 Days to Midnight was so good and thought provoking that I often found myself going to sleep wondering about the safety of Jacob’s soul, if there is such a thing. Making life and death decisions are hard and almost impossible. If he made the wrong choice between saving the freezing man or the captive man, would that reflect poorly on Jacob, making him lesser in the eyes of God? Not only might his decisions make God upset, but the fact that he was making decisions at all might be wrong. Why? The problem here is that Jacob, a mere teenager, is playing God. This idea of playing God made me think about how maybe we all do that in some way. Young children play house, where they start and stop to make adjustments to the “life story. We have government dictating how we live, and of course, we meddle in each other’s lives. Now, none of these examples are as severe as the choice Jacob makes through the novel, but perhaps that is the point of this book: to give us an extreme that would then make us think of our own examples. 13 Days to Midnight is, in my opinion, an accurate portrayal of our own heart’s deepest avarices, needs, and sins, with its love tearing friends apart, lust for power, and, unforgettably, playing God. This is truly a thought-provoking and unique, book.

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tinytechie said...
Apr. 24, 2012 at 4:21 pm
I wrote this and I really hope you like it. TeenInk is so helpful! : )
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