Reviews from Lord Taylor of Glencoe
Thirteen: Tom Hoyle, June 5—11, 2015
My rating: ♦♦♦◊◊
Thirteen is a distinctly average young adult thriller. A mysterious group is chasing schoolboy Adam, determined to kill him before the New Year after which all of their hope will be lost. He needs to figure out why while also remaining alive. It may sound familiar.
Unlike some other takes on this plot device, both the protagonists and the reasons are revealed upfront. Following on from Adam, Isaac and Jesus, the new Adam is thought to be the fourth and final imposter, born two thousand years apart, who needs to be killed to usher in a new kingdom. Adam was born at the stroke of midnight in the year 2000 and must be killed before his fourteenth birthday on January 1, 2014. The relevance of the age seems to come from the author having the idea in 2013 and making everything else fit.
Were it not for the striking cover and bright page gilt edges, I mightn’t have bothered. But let’s be fair, it does look pretty snazzy from any angle: front, back and sides.
Knowing it’s just some insane bampot after Adam, and the reasons why, remove any real sense of mystery and so the focus must simply turn to Adam avoiding death. It’s fast-moving and action-centred, with little time wasted on exposition and introspection but fundamentally it’s nothing we haven’t seen before. For the most part, it’s a predictable sequence of near-misses and lucky escapes with weeks skipped at a time when it seems the author was getting a bit fed up.
This changes in the fifth and final part of the book. With the finale looming, Hoyle saves his best until last. Some of the latter sequences are written almost cinematically, with the climaxes playing out brilliantly in your mind, and there’s enough time for the odd unexpected twist.
Adam is very much your generic normal-kid-framed-for-murder-and-on-the-run archetype who doesn’t muster much in the way of affection or interest. Even his dialogue is generic. There are a few too many references to popular youth culture in the early chapters that make it look like poor old Mr Hoyle Googled “what do kids talk about?” and shoehorned in a whole checklist. However, there is something touchingly innocent about Adam’s friendship with Megan in a coming-of-age way and that bond is something that you can and do root for.
Overall, Thirteen doesn’t deliver anything particularly new, and its predictability gets in the way of any genuine tension or suspense for the most part. But it’s equally harmless, and passes an hour or two without requiring much effort.