THE THIRTEENTH CHIME
Available August 13th, 2010
Received for review
Destiny and her best friend Stephanie are taking a much needed breather from the stresses of school finals and are planning on spending a few blissful days at Stephanie's new beach house. Unbeknownst to them, blissful will not be an adjective they will choose to describe their time by the sea.
Shortly after arriving, a freak accident occurs, putting both Stephanie and her mother in the hospital. Alone and frightened by the unusual circumstances surrounding the accident, Destiny calls her ex-boyfriend David, whom she has always been able to lean on in times of need, for moral support. David, still struggling with his unforeseen dismissal almost a year ago, flies in to be the proverbial shoulder-to-cry-on.
Once there, David begins to realize that something has truly scared Destiny, and it's not the thought of an intruder in their home as the police would have them believe. Her fear has more to do with an unusual grandfather clock at the top of a staircase; a staircase in a house with a reputation situated on a cliff overlooking an island prison. Clues begin to fall into place, a mystery begins to unravel, and David must shoulder hurt feelings and focus on Destiny before the clock strikes thirteen.
This novel has a story that shows promise. The mystery element unfolds nicely, with some twists and turns that are fairly unpredictable and could lead to intriguing future revelations in subsequent books. It also has a very beautiful cover design. That being said however, I do have some fundamental problems with the book as a whole.
Character development for me is one of the most intrinsic parts of creating a good story. Without characters that draw me in, I feel like an outsider with my nose pressed up against the window pane wanting desperately to be inside where the action is taking place. I like characters that force me to feel. I love to love characters. I love to hate characters. I love to love to hate them. But most importantly, I love to be wholly and completely involved in their world, however temporarily. The most successful characters for me are those that are multifaceted, with layers that are subtly revealed as the storyline progresses, drawing me further and further in until I'm screaming and crying and completely submerged in their emotional trials and tribulations.
Unfortunately, the characters here are lacking that much-needed depth. David and Destiny are very one-dimensional, their thoughts and feelings told to the reader instead of shown. David reflects thoughtfully. Destiny smiles smugly. Everyone chuckles lightly. All thoughts and emotions are presented in short, staccato bursts that don't provide any substance to which the reader can latch on and hold tight.
Furthermore, the relationship between David and Destiny is confusing and somewhat uncomfortable at times. It's not very clear why the relationship ended initially, only that it was a surprise to David, and their interactions are awkward in a way that I don't think is completely intentional. David has valid reasons for being upset with Destiny over her past behavior, yet he drops everything to rush to her side when she's engaged to someone else, and once he's there, all serious conversation is eschewed by Destiny punching him in the arm and giggling. He gets punched in the arm quite a bit.
I have a few other issues with the writing itself, the primary one being that it lacks a maturity and finesse I've seen from some other young adult writers. There are numerous brilliantly written, engaging, and haunting paranormal young adult novels out there at the moment, and this one just isn't on the same playing field. That's not to say future novels won't be improved upon, however.
There are a couple problems with the sequence of events as well, but as characters are the most fundamental part of the story for me, my primary issue is with their individual personalities and relationships. I believe this debut from Ms. Michaels has a solid idea and good bones, but it's missing the heart to give it vibrancy and truly bring it to life.