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A Weak Version of The Green Mile
Change of Heart - Jodi Picoult
Member Name: Purple127
Change of Heart - Jodi Picoult
Advantages: Strong plot idea, some controversial issues explored
Disadvantages: Goes off on a tangent, lack of depth, plot copies another novel
For a brief time I was somewhat hooked on Jodi Picoult's writing (I was staying with friends for quite a long time and they had a whole shelf full of her novels!) however after a while I began to find it very formulaic and this was the book which finally put me off her completely.
The novel has a strong and controversial plot line as all her novels do - in this case it revolves around a prisoner (Shay Bourne) on death row for the murder of a young girl and her police officer father. The twist concerns the fact that the mother of the murdered girl has another daughter who requires a heart transplant and Shay has offered to donate his heart to her after he is executed. Therefore the central question of the novel is - should the mother accept the heart transplant of a murderer in order to save her daughter?
The novel certainly has the potential to discuss a lot of complex issues in depth: the death penalty, the idea of redemption and forgiveness and the issues of organ donation, however I felt that none of these were really entered into with any great detail. The novel goes off on a bit of a tangent as Shay begins performing 'miracles' from his prison cell, raising the question of whether he can really be the 'evil' he is initially portrayed as. Personally I was put off by this as I wanted to read a serious and realistic novel and for 'magic' to then start happening halfway through was actually quite irritating and it moved the focus away from the complex moral issues of the death penalty.
However my main issue with the novel was that it seemed awfully familiar to something I had read before - The Green Mile, by Stephen King. In fact, as it progressed, the parallels were so uncanny that it began to seem like an outright copy. 'Twists' in the story matched that of the 'Green Mile' - right up to the end of the novel. I therefore felt the whole time like I knew exactly what was coming next - and it turned out I did.
It's therefore incredibly difficult to recommend this book to anyone (except perhaps somebody who really dislikes King and loves Picoult?) as in my opinion The Green Mile is *far* superior and better written. If you read this first, you'll be spoiling a far better book for yourself somewhere along the line (or an excellent film, if you preffer that sort of thing). The characterisation in King's novel is much stronger, I found it very difficult to care about Shay at all in this book, he was not at all relatable or sympathetic, too caught up in the 'miracle maker' role I suppose.
I generally just think that this sort of novel has been done so much better elsewhere - there are plenty of novels about the ethics of the death penalty which don't cross over into 'magical' territory for example. But really it is the 'copying' of another book that makes me rate this so low. Unless you really, really dislike Stephen King (and I'm sure plenty of people do!) if you haven't read the Green Mile - go read it. If you have read it - there's no need to bother reading this.
Summary: Starts out with a promising premise but ends as a weak version of another book