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Nineteen Minutes: A Novel Hardcover – March 5, 2007
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Best known for tackling controversial issues through richly told fictional accounts, Jodi Picoult's 14th novel, Nineteen Minutes, deals with the truth and consequences of a smalltown high-school shooting. 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 Cormier, 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?" --Gisele Toueg
From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Bestseller Picoult (My Sister's Keeper) takes on another contemporary hot-button issue in her brilliantly told new thriller, about a high school shooting. Peter Houghton, an alienated teen who has been bullied for years by the popular crowd, brings weapons to his high school in Sterling, N.H., one day and opens fire, killing 10 people. Flashbacks reveal how bullying caused Peter to retreat into a world of violent computer games. Alex Cormier, the judge assigned to Peter's case, tries to maintain her objectivity as she struggles to understand her daughter, Josie, one of the surviving witnesses of the shooting. The author's insights into her characters' deep-seated emotions brings this ripped-from-the-headlines read chillingly alive. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Top customer reviews
Just not my kind of a read ... if it is going to be melodrama then I will take it in period costume. This was trying to be philosophical but fell on its arty arse. The multiple narrative was woeful ... the "voice" used was the same, usually impossible to tell (without names) who was narrating the chapter. (Maybe the problem is that I have recently read some great change of voice/point -of-view multiple narratives that work in spades!!)
I found the characterisations a bit on the clunky side, lacking credibility. In fact there were too many characters who were not relevant to the plot ... what was the point of the lawyer's old love affair?
Maybe the only problem with the surprise ending is that they weren't all treated to the same fate!
I thought of giving this book two stars because of the concept. Also, because it is rare to find a book that gets worse by the chapter. The concept of telling the stories from seven different points of view promises to be interesting, but ends up just seeming lazy. The author doesn't really flesh out the characters enough to give them each a unique point of view, so it ends up that she is just telling the same story more than once.
Aside from the implausibility of the book as a whole (several knowledgeable reviewers have commented on the rigorous rules governing organ donations, especially from donor children), the ending is the biggest cop out to resolving a story ever! And, even if you are okay with the ironic-tragic ending, the last/epilogue chapter (the first time we hear from the sister directly) is even more ridiculous. Are we supposed to believe that Kate not only rose from her death bed but pirouetted out of it to become a dance teacher? Are we to believe that, without any intervention other than his father telling him that he knows what he did, the brother stops being an arsonist and becomes a cop? The father has a brief spate of alcoholism but then is okay? Nonesense!
I think the bigger crime is that the book did not explore some of the more interesting, but perhaps less dramatic themes-for instance, that of the brother, whose childhood is cut short by his ailing sister, but who has no direct role to play in her illness because he is not a good genetic match. Instead, the author does a halfhearted attempt at a love-lost; love-found story between the lawyer and the court liaison, which is also never really fleshed out very well.
C'mon! If you are going to write a book about something this compelling, don't be so lazy about it! Do the research, take the time to develop the characters, and write a good book instead of a marketable movie treatment!
Most recent customer reviews
Love the unexpected twist at the end!!!