23 Minutes by Vivian Vande Velde

Bibliographic Citation:
Velde, Vivian Vande. (2016). 23 Minutes. Honesdale, PA: Boyds Mills Press. 978-1629794419.

Plot Summary:
Zoe is a teenage girl with a complicated past and an ability to sort-of time travel. She can relive events she wants to change, but only 23 minutes of them & it rarely changes things for the better. One day Zoe happens upon a bank robbery and knows she has to do whatever she can to help.


Image from Amazon.com

Critical Analysis & Personal Opinion:
I am a lover of realistic fiction. You generally won’t find me with my nose in a fantasy or science fiction book. No wizards or vampires for me. But this book, though far from realistic, sucked me in. True crime is perhaps my favorite genre of all time, so it is likely that the crime scene tape reflected in the eye of the person on the cover is what got me, but nonetheless I read AND enjoyed the book. It sat on my desk for well over a month before I picked it up and then I read it cover to cover in about 2 hours. I genuinely liked both Zoe & Daniel, the main characters in the story. Zoe is a little bit different, but you like it probably because the story is told from her point of view. I don’t know if it is possible to hate a main character in a YA novel because you’re inside their heads basically, but moving on. Daniel is likable because he is just so darn nice, and always wants to help. They’re both heroes in this story for their unwavering desire to put other people before themselves. Zoe has the ability to walk away, and just can’t do it. She puts herself in harms way over and over again to try to save Daniel. She could’ve played it back that one time and just left it at that, but she didn’t. Daniel trusts a total stranger who sounds like a lunatic, and in a way sacrifices himself and his own safety for these other people. It would’ve been easy for both of them to just distance themselves from it all, and they can’t just do it. It is noble of them. Stupid at times, but admirable. The only thing I didn’t like was that I felt like the ending was a little cheesy. I don’t think Daniel would’ve bought Zoe a phone in real life, maybe a watch but not a prepaid phone. But then again, this isn’t real life because there aren’t 23 minute time travelers just popping in and out of certain events. Or are there?


  • Young Adult Library Services (YALSA) Quick Picks
  • 2016 Cybil (Children’s and Young Adult Bloggers’ Literary Awards) — Young Adult Speculative Fiction division

Author Info:

Vivian Vande Velde is the author of over 30 books ranging from picture books to books for adults. Her work has won several awards including School Library Journal Best Book of the Year (Never Trust a Dead Man), the Edgar for best young adult mystery (Never Trust a Dead Man) and the Anne Spencer Linbergh Prize for fantasy ( Heir Apparent).


Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer

Bibliographic Citation:
Pfeffer, Susan Beth. (2006). Life As We Knew It. Orlando, FL: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. ISBN 9780152061548.

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Plot Summary:
Miranda is sixteen-years-old when her life and the rest of the world get turned upside down after a the moon’s orbit is changed by a meteor collision. The planet is plagued by natural disasters and you can never be too careful with your food or your neighbors. This book chronicles Miranda’s family’s experiences as they hope for the best and prepare for the worst, not knowing what the future holds or if there is even a future at all.

Critical Analysis:
Life As We Knew It is a dystopian society novel written in the form of Miranda’s diary. Miranda, the protagonist, is a very identifiable character. She is your average run of the mill teenager, and her family is a typical group. Her parents are divorced, she fights with her mom, she thinks that her mom chooses favorites with her children, she dreams about having a boyfriend, and fantasizes about prom. Aside from the end of the world looming, many young girls can see themselves in her shoes.

Perhaps this novel’s most endearing quality is that it requires almost no energy to absorb yourself in the story and with the characters. I would describe this book as escape literature because you don’t have to think and you don’t learn anything to enjoy this book. Perhaps, it is almost better if you don’t think because too much thought might spoil the simplicity and point out some flaws in the storyline. Additionally, investing too much intellectual energy might make the tone or the not-so-subtle judgement and preachiness of some aspects too hard to handle. Some readers may be turned off to Miranda’s mother’s political viewpoints or Miranda’s scrutiny of the religious community. I found these details to aid in the book’s attempts at realism, but some might consider it little didactic with a message that detracts from the storyline.

It has been suggested that “young readers deserve books with happy endings” (Nielson et al. 120) and that their books need to have a sense of hope.  Life As Knew It definitely fits that bill. My biggest issue with this novel is that it didn’t go far enough. Pfeffer was too cautious, she was writing Life As We Knew It as a fairy tale with a post-apocalyptic backdrop. But perhaps that is what you want from a book for young adults. Miranda’s life is full of drama and it isn’t just because the world seems to be ending. There is a romance, and there are friendships, and in the end her life doesn’t seem all that bad. What more could you want when life as you knew it is over?

Nielsen, A., Blasingame, J., Donelson, K., and Nilsen, D. (2012) Literature for Today’s Young Adults. (Ninth Edition). New York: Pearson.