Monday, May 21, 2007

Another Winner from Jodi Picoult

Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult (464 pgs) is a book that I choose to read for the Spring Reading Thing Challenge. I'm glad I did. I was so disappointed with The Tenth Circle that I almost passed on this one. In the wake of the Virginia Tech shootings, it's a timely piece and one that makes a person think, as do most of Picoult's books.

In Nineteen Minutes, you can mow the front lawn, color your hair, watch a third of a hockey game. In nineteen minutes you can bake scones or get a tooth filled at the dentist; you can fold laundry for a family of five. Nineteen minutes is how long it took the Tennessee Titans to sell out of tickets to the play-offs. It's the length of a sitcom, minus the commercials. It the driving distance from the Vermont border to the town of Sterling, New Hampshire. In nineteen minutes, you can order a pizza and get it delivered. You can read a story to a child or have your oil changed. You can walk a mile. You can sew a hem. In nineteen minutes, you can stop the world, or you can just jump off of it.

In nineteen minutes, you can get revenge.

And so starts the story of Josie Cormier and Peter Houghton. Josie is the daughter of Alex Cormier, a single mother AND a superior court judge. Josie is beautiful, smart and one half of the "IT" couple at Sterling High School. Peter is a geek. He has spent his life trying to blend in to the woodwork. If you aren't noticed, then you aren't picked on. When they were younger, Josie was the only friend Peter had. She was always there trying to help him when the others were being mean. Alex and Lacy, Peter's mother, were friends until they had a falling out when the kids were in grade school. From that moment on, Josie wasn't allowed to go to Peter's house any more. But they were still friendly at least until Josie got noticed by the popular kids and started hanging out with them. And this hurt Peter immensely.

Could it be possible that this mild boy is the same one that methodically walked into Sterling High School one morning with 2 sawed-off shotguns and 2 Glock pistols? Is he the same kid that executed 10 people that day and injured 19 others? Hundreds of witnesses will say that it was. But did they really know WHO Peter Houghton was? Did anyone?

As with all of Picoult's books, this one brings up issues that are incredibly sensitive. You want to be able to hate a person that is cold-bloodied enough to plan an attack on a high school. You want to think of him as a monster for executing his teachers and class mates. But Picoult shows a side of things that we normally don't see. She shows us the killer, and how he was victimized his entire life. She creates an empathy for this boy that was pushed so hard he snapped. And she shows us that just because kids are beautiful and popular they aren't always happy. I sometimes have a hard time reading Picoult because I know she is going to say things I don't want to hear. But her writing is so smooth and addictive, it grabs you by the throat and won't let go. As always, there is a "surprise" ending....this time I figured it out long before the climax of the book. That being said, this is one of Jodi Picoult's best books, at least of the 5 or 6 that I have read. I would definitely recommend it, especially if you have children. 4.5/5


Kailana said...

I look forward to reading this book, but I haven't got there yet. Like you, I was not so sure if I wanted to after The Tenth Circle disappointed so much.

Quixotic said...

I haven't read anything by Picoult before, so I'm interested by this review. I might give this book a go...

Stephanie said...

Kail - I didn't like The Tenth Circle at ALL! Every other book I've liked. Even loved a couple. This one was good. Much better than the last.

Quixotic - Picoult has a way of taking subjects that you just don't want to talk about, and writing their stories! I thought this was one of her best, though Plain Truth and My Sister's Keeper were my favorites!

Rhinoa said...

I am glad you enjoyed this. So far I have only read two of her books but enjoyed them both. I have the rest waiting for me on my book shelf :)

Literary Feline said...

Great review, Stephanie! I definitely want to read this one. I love how Jodi presents all sides to her stories and really gives the reader a chance to see the different viewpoints. It sounds like she does that again with this one.

Framed said...

I didn't care much for "My Sister's Keeper" but this one sounds so different. It's certainly is a concern I'd like to learn more about. Great review.

Trish said...

Stephanie--for some reason this book haunted me a little more than the others I've read (The Pact and My Sister's Keeper)...maybe because of the recent VA Tech events.

I love Picoult because she does ask the difficult questions. I also love that she gives the different perspectives.

I'm sorry to hear you didn't like Tenth Circle. I just picked it up at Half Price Books and was going to try and read it later this month (time permitting--why is there never enough time!).


Trish (and yes, add me to your blogroll!)

Anonymous said...

I am a student in highschool and i have read this book but i was wondering if you could help me with what the climax of the story is. is it when Josie gets called to the stand? im always confused about climaxs of a story

JHS. said...

I agree with most of what you said about this book. Picoult is fast becoming one of my favorite writers.

My review is here: