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.
Rating: 9 out of 10
Source: Checked it out from my local library
When Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult was selected for a book club meeting, I was curious. I had never read anything by Picoult and was looking forward to finally reading some of her work. I started the book during bar prep and so most of my reading was done right before bed, first thing in the morning, or on the train into town. The story really missed with my dreams at night, gave me something to think about during the day, and made the commute to and from the city seem much shorter. The book is very compelling. I was instantly drawn into the story and while some of the characters, like Josie's and her boyfriend Matt, were annoying, I appreciated that none of the character's were one dimensional. I cried every time I read about Peter's mom. It made me feel ashamed and embarrassed at how quickly I passed judgment on parenting when I hear about kids doing terrible things. I related to Alex who was a single mom that worked as a judge. The complexity of her relationship with her daughter and efforts to resolve it were both heart breaking and heart warming.
During the book club discussion, we talked about what makes some kids targets of bullies and how can you predict whether or not your child will become a victim of bullying. I really loved the parts of the books the depict Peter's friendship with Josie. I appreciate that she stuck up for her friend. While I can understand wanting to have an easier social life, I felt annoyed that she dumped him for higher social status. It also reminded me of high school where I was so afraid of being picked on by the popular kids that I just tried to stay out of there way. I wanted to know what other strategies people employed to survive high school. I also wanted to get the perspective of those who were popular in high school. Unfortunately, the members of the book club claimed not to be popular in high school and the only strategy which was shared was that they made fun of other people in the school. It made me wonder if the only ways to survive high school are to hide from the popular crowd, make fun of people, or be part of the popular crowd. If you feel like sharing, I would love your thoughts on high school.