I have long been a fan of Vivian Vande Velde. And doesn’t she have the coolest name ever? She has written a number of books for readers of all ages. Some of my favorites of hers include, Never Trust a Dead Man and Heir Apparent. I’m adding her newest YA to that list.
23 Minutes by Vivian Vande Velde (Boyds Mill Press/2016)
When Zoe steps into the bank, clutching papers she stole from her group home, she’s only hoping to get out of the sudden downpour and catch her breath, but then a nice man is kind to her after she drops her papers. She is unused to being treated with kindness. And then a bank robber comes in and shoots and kills the man when he tries to be a hero. Zoe has an unusual gift – she can turn back time for 23 minutes and try to fix or change events, but she only has 10 tries. And with each playback, with each try, she gets to know the people affected, especially the kind man, better, but each playback results in more bloodshed. Can she save everyone before the 10th playback? Exciting and gripping page-turing story with classic Vivian Vande Velde tension. I could not put this book down and read it in one sitting.
I asked the author: How did you come up with the idea for 23 Minutes and what was the process of writing it like?
I can only talk about 23 Minutes by starting with a previous book. I’ve played before with the idea of someone faced with a problem where she gets to see the consequences of different actions she might take. That earlier someone is Giannine and the book is Heir Apparent, and the context is a futuristic virtual reality type of game, with the added factor that due to a mishap Giannine is stuck in the game until she successfully completes it. A bad decision there means Giannine’s game character gets killed and the game reboots, and Giannine must start over. People have described the story as “Groundhog Day” meets Jumanji. By that description, you can tell that Heir Apparent is not meant to be taken too seriously. Yes, I’ve set it up so that if Giannine doesn’t disconnect from the game in time, her brain will overheat and she could die. But I suspect that most readers know that isn’t going to happen just as surely as they know Peter Rabbit isn’t going to end up in Farmer McGregor’s pie.
I wanted to revisit that idea of action/seeing consequences/trying a different solution/repeat, but I wanted it to be less humorous and with immediate real life (or real death) results. I’d been mentally playing with possibilities but was getting nowhere when I came up with the first line:
“The story starts with an act of stunning violence.”
That would be clear and immediate warning to readers that this book was not a comedy and was not for the same readers as my most recent Frogged.
Once I actually started putting words to paper, the writing went fairly quickly, with each decision I made having consequences further along in the story. Zoe, the 15 year-old main character in 23 Minutes, has the ability to replay the past 23 minutes of her life. (There are, of course, limits and complications to what she can do.) But how would you react if someone told you she could “redo” time–and couldn’t prove it because the new version of events would be the only ones you could remember? So Zoe has been under psychiatric care. She’s also in foster care, as her family has broken up, partially because of her perceived mental illness. As a result, she is distrustful of adults, quick to make judgments, and wary of sharing her gift, as doing so has frequently resulted in a worse final situation than the original. Still, when she witnesses a bank robbery where an innocent bystander gets killed–a young man who has just been kind to her–she decides against her better instincts to get involved. But the solution is not as simple as calling the police from the safety of outside the bank. Zoe replays the 23 minutes repeatedly, and can’t help noticing that people are more complicated than she originally judged them, treating her differently depending on how she speaks to them. And in the meantime she finds herself more and more drawn to Daniel, that handsome young man who–no matter what she does–always seems in the line of fire.
For more about Vivian and her books, check out her web site. And do check out her books, especially 23 Minutes!
And of course, I can’t end a spotlight post without offering a copy of the book! You know the drill:
1. Comment on this post by Saturday, April 9th by midnight EST. A winner will be drawn at random and contacted on Tuesday, April 12th.
2. Entrants must have a US mailing address.
Good luck and happy reading! Thanks for stopping by!