This book is... odd. Very odd. It is basically a book of disjointed scenes, held together by the fact that they all feature the same characters. The first half of this book is your typical teenage he-loves-she-loves love triangle saga - complete with a football game, a bizarre homecoming, a girl-fight, history classes, and a sweet best friend. And then, about half way through, that book ends. Now it is a book about the main character's epic tragedy, her best friend's evil under layer, and the hot new boy's mafioso family... Needless to say, I liked the "second book" better.
Besides the two-book divide, there are all sorts of bizarre plot holes in 13 to Life. For starters, the protagonist Jessie is supposed to be smart. And yet, when presented with extraordinary evidence proving that her crush is a serious ass, she remains in love with him. Huh? I can understand nursing a hopeless crush, but when said crush uses you to get back together with his girlfriend? Well, it's time to let it go. That Jessie doesn't "let it go" isn't really her fault, Shannon Delany just wanted to keep her and Pietr (the aforementioned hot new boy) from getting together for a little while longer.
Except it gets worse. Once I've accepted the fact that Jessie is stupidly in love with I-can't-even-remember-his-name, she promptly forgets about him. Oh, and starts making out with Pietr, who is now her creepy best friend's boyfriend. Huh? What? She pushes the guy she likes into the arms of another girl, only to turn him into a cheater? WTF?
The only vaguely reassuring thing about this love-square mess is that Shannon Delany is aware of how needlessly crazy she's made everything. And I quote:
"I was so stupid. As a writer, I knew if I’d been a character in a novel a good editor would have scrawled TSTL (Too Stupid To Live) on the manuscript pages. Well, maybe not too stupid to live, but definitely too stupid to date." Chapter 14, 13 to Life by Shannon Delany
So even though I could overlook the bizarre romance business going on - despite it being the only thing going on for the first half of the book - there was one thing I could not overlook: the dogs. Or more specifically, how Jessie treats her dogs. She screams at them to shut up and calls them stupid. And in another event, where a German Shepherd acts out due to Pietr being a bloody werewolf, she screams about how the dog is crazy. When the dog clearly clearly isn't. Her behaviour, for me, was borderline animal abuse - if she had started hitting one of the dogs, I wouldn't have been surprised. I didn't like it one little bit and I couldn't help but think that Maya (from The Gathering) would never have treated her hounds that way.
So, by now you're thinking: why on Earth should I read this book? Excellent question. While there were times when I really wanted to take a red pen to the text, it did keep me engaged and entertained for 5 solid hours. Mostly due to Pietr and his brilliant Russian werewolf mafioso family. Pietr is a mix between Edward (Twilight) and Dmitri (Vampire Academy) - in other words, he's engaging, mysterious, and has an accent to die for. And his family? They are the werewolf version of the Cullens. I want to know more about them... I want to know everything about them! Even by the end of the book, we know next to nothing about Pietr's background. That alone is enough for me to pick up the next novel.
That, and to see if Jessie grows a brain.
Bottom line? 13 to Life has decent writing, a needless complicated plot, and supremely frustrating characters. But there are Russians in it, so...