Thursday, November 6, 2008

Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult

Summary: Peter Houghton was a child that never fit in with the other children. From as early as Kindergarten he was bullied by his peers. His lunchbox was thrown out bus windows, he was stuffed into lockers, called numerous names (so frequently that he even questioned his own identity), and depantsed in the middle of the cafeteria.
Josie Cormier was Peter's one true friend. She was the only one that would stand up for him. But all that changed as the two entered middle school and Josie realized that she was being defined by her peers according to her friendship with Peter. In an attempt to fit in with the popular kids, Josie dumped Peter, choosing popularity over friendship.
One day Peter snaps. He opens fire at the school, killing ten students and wounding many more. The trial that results from Peter's actions is the basis for this novel, filled with thought-provoking background information and a couple twists.

My Review: Jodi Picoult takes you for an emotional journey in "Nineteen Minutes". How can you care about a character that is a cold-blooded killer? Yet you do come to care about Peter and even somewhat identify with him.
Here's the story of a boy who was bullyed all his life and this is the result of that behavior. The books asks the reader at one point to recall a memory from junior high or high school. It states that for the majority of us it will be a painful memory that first creeps into our head, an embrassing moment, a moment when our peers had a good laugh at our expense. Most of us are able to get past the incident, realizing that although it may be truely humilating at the time, it is not such a big deal in the grand scheme of things. But what if everyday was filled with painfully embrassing incidents? What if these incidents defined you as a person? How would that have changed who you are today?
The story also suggests that even the popular kids have insecurity problems. That they, too are unable to define themselves beyond the definations set by their peers. They stumble along trying to balance between the person they are and the person they are expected to be by others. Sometimes the result of this imperfect balance is bullying another student to be more liked by your own group. Having grown up somewhere in the middle of the pack, this is a novel idea to me, but one I certainly phanthom being true.
What type of mother raises a killer? This is the question Picoult addresses in her book. As it turns out, it may not be a mother too different from your own or even you. It's just a mother doing what everyone of us does, what she feels is best for her child, though her desicions may differ from your own. Picoult writes "Children don't make their own mistakes. They plunge into a pit they have been led to by their parents." This really made me think about the pits I may be leding my children to. I'm not sure that there is a way to avoid all pits. Maybe the key is to teach your child to step around. Or maybe it's just being there so that when they do take that tragic step they are not free-falling.
This novel really gave me a slightly new view on parenthood. I believe that I will focus a little more on tolerence, preach individuality, seek signs of bullying and remember how everything seems so important when we are young and can't see the grand picture.

My Rating: 4 1/2 Stars (deducting a half for the twists being somewhat predictable) This is a novel that I will be recommending to others, a novel whose characters stay with you.

If I could Sum this book up in one phrase it would be: An emotional, thought-provoking rollercoaster that must be riden.


MindySue said...

very nice review. i totally agree with you. it is scary as heck to not be able to anticipate what our children will come up against....or to even try to anticipate it. i thought your review was VERY well thought out.

MindySue said...

feel free to add your favorite reads on the side. i feel guilty when i see just mine there.

MindySue said...

any ideas as to why it was called "19 minutes" w/o giving away the story?

Heather said...

The total time from the first shot to when Peter was apprehended was Nineteen Minutes.

Melissa Paul said...

I agree with Heather that this book made me think about parenting a little differently and even now I'm trying to make sure that my boys know that it is important to be kind to others as well as to stick up for themselves and be their own person. I wouldn't call this an enjoyable book, but it does draw one in and make you want to call all your firends to talke about it.


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