Saturday, September 8, 2007

Julie's Book Review: 19 Minutes

Summary:Set in Sterling, New Hampshire, Picoult offers reads a glimpse of what would cause a 17-year-old to wake up one day, load his backpack with four guns, and kill nine students and one teacher in the span of nineteen minutes. As with any Picoult novel, the answers are never black and white, and it is her exceptional ability to blur the lines between right and wrong that make this author such a captivating storyteller.

On Peter Houghton's first day of kindergarten, he watched helplessly as an older boy ripped his lunch box out of his hands and threw it out the window. From that day on, his life was a series of humiliations, from having his pants pulled down in the cafeteria, to being called a freak at every turn. But can endless bullying justify murder? As Picoult attempts to answer this question, she shows us all sides of the equation, from the ruthless jock who loses his ability to speak after being shot in the head, to the mother who both blames and pities herself for producing what most would call a monster. Surrounding Peter's story is that of Josie Cornier, a former friend whose acceptance into the popular crowd hangs on a string that makes it impossible for her to reconcile her beliefs with her actions.

At times, Nineteen Minutes can seem tediously stereotypical-- jocks versus nerds, parent versus child, teacher versus student. Part of Picoult's gift is showing us the subtleties of these common dynamics, and the startling effects they often have on the moral landscape. As Peter's mother says at the end of this spellbinding novel, "Everyone would remember Peter for nineteen minutes of his life, but what about the other nine million?"

Review: This is my 6th Jodi Picoult novel and I love her style of writing and the realism of her stories. She yet again tackles a very real and troubling current issue but from a different point of view than I was expecting. The book starts off a bit slow for me but it picks up the pace as the story progresses. There are many different issues at play in this book: guns, bullying, coming of age, drugs, emotional abuse, parent/child relationships and popularity. I don't think that one out weighs the other and Ms. Picoult weaves them splendily into her story.

She brought back Jordan McAfee who was in her previous books The Pactand Salem Falls as a defense lawyer. As with most of the stories I've read the climax of the book happens in the court room and it's a suitable climax and a suitable ending.

What struck me was how isolated teenagers can feel even when they have a strong support system. I think that all of us have been teased at one point or another but to resort to that kind of violence, it makes you wonder at what point someone snaps and that point is different for everyone. Another issue is bullying and how someone feels after being tormented for their whole lives.

As a parent this book scared the crap out of me. How do you reach out to your teenager? How do you keep the lines of communication open? How do you keep yourself knowing what they are upto/into without invading their privacy? It's a very thin line. One thing I know is that kids needs parents because they have friends.

I would recommend this book for every parent and child to read this book before they enter high school. If your child isn't getting bullied, there's a chance that they are doing the bullying.

The biggest lesson from this book is that our actions not only affect us but they affect other people.

Final Review: 4.5/5

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Nineteen Minutes when I read it. Jodi Picould is never purely black and white and she always leaves you thinking. I was able to identify with Peter to a point as I remember being teased in school, but I chalked that up to being a simple fact of life.

Another great installment by Picoult and a great review, Julie.