Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult

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Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Jo Heffer
Reviewed by Jo Heffer
Summary: Sterling, New Hamshire was just an ordinary, quiet American town until the day Peter Houghton walked into his school and shot dead ten of his classmates and wounded nineteen others. What drives a boy to such drastic actions? Nineteen Minutes tells the story of what happens when one boy is pushed too far and the devastating consequences which everyone has to live with.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 608 Date: April 2008
Publisher: Hodder Paperback
ISBN: 978-0340935798

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6th March 2007 started off as just an ordinary day for Josie Cormier, Matt Royston, Lacy Houghton, Partick Ducharme, and Jordan McAfee. By mid-morning one of them would be dead, alongside many other high school students, and the lives of all the others would be changed forever. Nineteen Minutes charts what happens the day one very unhappy and bullied schoolboy, Peter Houghton, decides that enough is enough and retaliates in the most drastic way imaginable. He bursts into his own school, wielding four guns and apparently shooting at random until ten people are dead and another nineteen are seriously wounded. This happens at the start of the book which then goes onto to look at the events in Peter's life leading up to that day, what happens in the immediate aftermath, and ultimately leads to the trial that follows.

This is Jodi Picoult at her absolute best. She draws you in on the first page, tackling a very emotive theme, and takes you with her on a powerful and moving journey. She makes her reader think about what it is like to be 'different' and to be bullied because of that difference. She also examines most young peoples' quests to be popular and looks at how far some will go in order to fit in with the crowd, even if it means betraying a friend and turning their back on what they know is right. She also makes you wonder what it must be like to be the parent of a child who suddenly turns into a monster. It's unsurprising that most of her characters have trouble living with their consciences after that fateful day.

Jodi Picoult takes a few key characters and charts each of their stories in this book. We learn a lot about Peter and how it felt to be shunned and ridiculed. Josie, who was once Peter's friend feels the loss of her boyfriend, who was one of the victims, alongside her guilt that she was somehow responsible. Patrick is the police officer who was first on the scene, and who finds himself continually reliving those first few moments and the awful sights he met at the high school. Jordan is the defence lawyer who somehow has to make sense of what happened in order to find a way out for Peter. Most poignant of all though is Lacy, Peter's mother. Suddenly she is confronted with a son she doesn't know and no one else wants to know her either. Her choice is simple - either to abandon her son or stand by him when no one else will. All of these characters are very convincing and, as a reader, you become very involved in all these storylines which merge together so well.

I like the way Jodi Picoult switches between events in the present and incidents from the past. Through this, the reader is able to piece together, little by little, what happened to Peter over the years to cause him to act in the way he did. The first part of the book is a mix between these flashbacks, and what happens directly after the shootings. The second part is given over to Peter's trial which actually turns this part of the book into a thrilling and engrossing courtroom drama, with one or two very startling twists as well as a great deal of raw emotion displayed by a long line of witnesses.

From the moment I picked up Nineteen Minutes and started reading it, I was absorbed. It's not really an enjoyable read as the subject matter is very hard-hitting and emotive, but it is a very powerful read, and I felt I went through virtually every possible emotion by the time I had finished reading it. Overall though, even though this was fiction, I felt an incredible sadness because I feel sure that there are boys like Peter out there, but also some sense of hope that there are mothers like Lacy as well. Anyone who has read this, and is a parent, will probably just want to cuddle their child that little bit tighter at night - I know I did!

If you think that Nineteen Minutes is your sort of book, you will probably enjoy Plain Truth by Jodi Picoult. For another story on the theme of gun crime by children, we can recommend We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver. Teens might appreciate Candor by Pam Bachorz.

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Buy Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult at


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