Title: Nineteen Minutes
Author: Jodi Picoult
Challenges: Read 'n' Review Challenge
First Sentence: "In nineteen minutes, you can mow the front lawn, color your hair, watch a third of a hockey game."
Summary (From book flap):
Sterling is a small, ordinary New Hampshire town where nothing ever happens -- until the day its complacency is shattered by a shocking act of violence. In the aftermath, the town's residents must not only seek justice in order to begin healing but also come to terms with the role they played in the tragedy. For them, the lines between truth and fiction, right and wrong, insider and outsider have been obscured forever. Josie Cormier, the teenage daughter of the judge sitting on the case, could be the state's best witness, but she can't remember what happened in front of her own eyes. And as the trial progresses, fault lines between the high school and the adult community begin to show, destroying the closest of friendships and families.
My Two Cents:
I'm not at all a Jodi Picoult fan. I read another book of hers last year, The Pact, and found the ending predictable and the writing less than impressive. I was a little reluctant to pick this one up, but I chose it for the first book for a book club at my library because it's readily available. I have to admit I was (mostly) pleasantly surprised.
Picoult's writing obviously evolved quite a bit from the earlier work of hers that I'd read. I wouldn't say it was spectacular, but it was clear and easy-to-read. If I had been able to sit down and read this book all at once, I easily could have finished it in a few hours because her writing was uncomplicated and the plot did draw me in.
I wouldn't say there was a "favorite" character for me, except maybe (Gasp!) Peter, the school shooter. He was the most sympathetic character because I knew kids who were treated the way he was in school, and I even was subjected to some of the same ridicule. Sure, none of the kids I knew went so far as to get revenge by killing people, but I could see where that impulse came from, especially if Peter had the dissociative condition the defense tries to claim.
There was something about Josie and Alex that just ground on me from the first page. I'm not sure what it was, but I just really didn't feel too much toward either of them and got kind of annoyed when I read their sections of the book.
While I overall liked the book, there were a couple things that I wasn't too fond of.
One thing I didn't like was how Picoult made the situation in Sterling mirror that of Columbine a little too much. She had a mother commit suicide in a pawn shop after her daughter was killed in the shooting (Although with Columbine, the daughter was paralyzed). There was a lone teacher who was killed, and he bled out in his classroom with a Boy Scout student trying to help him. She had an outsider who placed remembrance crosses for the dead also place a controversial cross for the shooter. I just felt that she should not have parroted these details, especially since her characters refer to Columbine as a real event. It was a little unoriginal for me.
I also didn't like the ending. People comment to me all the time that they can't stand the way Picoult ends some of her books, and I can see where they're coming from. I thought that the "twist" at the end was a pretty unnecessary one; it could have been done a totally different way and actually made more sense with the rest of the story. This ending left me with a bad taste in my mouth.
Overall, though, I thought this was a good book which looks at a fictionalized school shooting not only from the perspective of the survivors and the rest of town, but also from that of the shooter. I would recommend this book to others.