Review: The 13th Sign by Kristin O’Donnell Tubb

The 13th Sign
Kristin O'Donnell Tubb

Feiwel & Friends
I received an advanced copy of this book for review.
Released January 8, 2013
272 pages
Middle Grade / Fantasy / Supernatural

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What if there was a 13th zodiac sign?

You’re no longer Sagittarius, but Ophiuchus, the healer, the 13th sign.

Your personality has changed. So has your mom’s and your best friend’s.

What about the rest of the world?

What if you were the one who accidentally unlocked the 13th sign, causing this world-altering change—and infuriating the other 12 signs?

Jalen did it, and now she must use every ounce of her strength and cunning to send the signs back where they belong. Lives, including her own, depend on it.

Dear self,

Please stop requesting middle grade titles. You probably won’t get into them that much and then no one will be happy.

Yours in literary indulgence,

Me

 

So yeah, The 13th Sign is a middle grade book and it’s one that I probably would have really enjoyed at 10 or 12, but just couldn’t get into at an age much older than the target audience. Instead I found myself marathon reading this super fast book wishing for a little more development in all fronts.

Jalen is a 13-year-old with a shock lock, a past dealing with a near-fatal illness, a father who disappeared years before, and a grandmother dying of cancer. It opens on her birthday where she and her best friends are visiting a New Orleans voodoo shop run by a friend of Jalen’s grandmother. After finding a creepy locked book that the voodoo shop owner won’t let them purchase, the girls grab the book when her back is turned, toss some money on the counter and run home. The book is suitably creepy and upon finding the key, Jalen recreates the world by introducing a thirteenth zodiac sign that basically changes the zodiac sign of just about everyone in the world and therefore change their entire personalities.

The rest of the book is running and fighting various levels of creepy monsters and facing fears of water and heights. Outside the three main characters, most everyone is not who they seem. Jalen and her friends run around New Orleans, hoping to get to the hospital where her grandmother is dying and where they think the thirteenth sign Ophiuchus is hanging out. On the way they cross paths with each of the other twelve zodiac signs, who want to fight Jalen to prevent her from getting the healing power of Ophiuchus and occasionally settle personal vendettas between zodiac symbols. It’s a little bizarre.

Jalen and her friends make choices that probably seem logical at 13 when you’re without parental supervision, but the sudden personally changes that turned everyone into their polar opposites was a little much. Best friend Ellie spends most of the adventures crying and trembling and being fairly useless while her previously macho brother who couldn’t care less about Jalen and Ellie suddenly becomes mister sensitive and dependable. I get that zodiac symbols are meant to dictate personality quirks, but each sign isn’t that drastically different. By the fifth time Ellie was walking around with tears in her eyes, I wanted to roll my own eyes out of my head.

There is also a continuing theme about Jalen’s orange fear growing at this or being quenched at that. Perhaps I missed it, but I have no idea why her fear is orange or what it may signify, but she liked to think about it a lot and compare what her current orange level is compared to what it was five or ten minutes ago. Her internal monologue was very repetitive in general with the only exciting moments being the individual battles.

The best part for me was imagining what all this most look like for on-lookers who cannot see the physical manifestations of the zodiac symbols, but rather see kids climbing on a truck that is mysteriously being crushed into a tin can out of nowhere or throwing themselves all over a ferry as metal rails bend around them. The fact that no one came up to them and asked what they were doing or if they needed serious medical help was a little surprising. Then again Jalen and friends could never notice when other people around them didn’t see the other people they associated with and therefore were often surprised by zodiac creatures they were previously talking to in a friendly manner.

Overall I imagine this would be a fun adventure for a middle grade reader, especially if they’re interested in the zodiac and believe it has a hand in building our individual personalities. Jalen is a normal kid with abnormal problems that have her head spinning and many younger readers could probably relate. Except with the orange anger… I don’t know if anyone can relate to that.

 

I received an advanced copy of this book from Feiwel & Friends in return for an honest review. All thoughts are my own.