Newest Review: ... I don't think she managed it with the characters in this book. The story is that after years of bullying a boy takes a gun into school and... more
One of Jodi Picoult's best
Nineteen Minutes - Jodi Picoult
Member Name: helenc72
Nineteen Minutes - Jodi Picoult
Advantages: Gripping, interesting topic, good insight into characters especially the shooter, Peter, a twist
Disadvantages: Not sure how much I liked the twist
Jodi Picoult tends to write about events raising moral issues which culminate in a court case, where a twist is often revealed. 19 Minutes does follow this typical formula but that doesn't make it any less gripping. The subject of this book is a high school shooting and we are shown what life is like at Sterling High School before the shooting, in the aftermath and at the end we finally learn all the details of what actually happened during the 19 minutes in which the shooting took place.
The book is written from the point of view of multiple characters, including the shooter, Peter Houghton. I think the Peter sections are really interesting and we see how he has developed throughout his life and how constant bullying from the first day of school at age 5 has slowly changed his personality. Peter is not shown as purely as a bad person who did a terrible crime, but as a normal person who was pushed so far that he became capable of it. Jodi Picoult does not make excuses for his actions but the way she portrays Peter allows you to see him as a victim in his own way. I did feel sympathy for him despite what he had done. The Peter sections give quite a shocking impression of American high school life and the way students are divided into groups of cool and uncool people, which you often see in American TV shows and films. I find it quite fascinating to read about this kind of mini society in high schools with its own rules.
Josie Cormier is another of the main characters. She is the daughter of a local judge who originally wants to be the judge in Peter's case. Josie was friends with Peter when she was younger, but later dropped him as she became part of the "cool" clique and started dating a popular jock. The insights we get into Josie's "cool" friends shown that some are actually pretty horrible people. We see that while Josie is in this group she constantly feels unsure of who she is and is scared that at any moment she could lose her status. She feels desperate to fit in because she doesn't want to end up an outsider who is treated like Peter. This mindset makes her do some questionable things, like joining in with the bullying of Peter. Josie is an interesting character but I think sometimes it would have been nice to understand some of her actions a bit better.
As well as the teenage characters we also have sections from the point of view of Peter's parents, Lacy and Lewis. I find the sections on Lacy particularly good because she really wanted to do the best for her son and believed that she was, but we see how clueless she is throughout and how she sometimes just made things worse for him at school. We also get to know Josie's mum, the judge Alex Cormier. She is not a particularly emotional character and struggles in her relationship with Josie, as she has always focussed on her career and never had a close relationship with her own parents.
The court case is interesting and considers issues like whether Peter acted deliberating and intentionally or whether he was not mentally responsible for his actions. Throughout the court case we slowly find out more about what happened, until the whole truth is finally revealed. I found the twist quite shocking even though I had started to wonder about something similar. I won't say too much about it as I don't want to spoil anything but the twist made me a bit uncomfortable. However, I think this is probably the reaction Jodi Picoult wanted.
In general I was really gripped by this book, even the second time as I had forgotten a lot of the details and could read it again as if it was the first time.
If you like any of Jodi Picoult's other books then this is definitely a good one to read. I would also recommend it to anyone who wants a book which is easy to read and a gripping page turner, but which does really make you think. Jodi Picoult is sometimes labelled chicklit but I don't think I would consider this book to be chicklit at all. It is a sensitive and interesting look at a shocking crime and the society in which it happened.
Summary: A page turner to make you think