Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult

This is another adult book that has teen appeal. Jodi Picoult is an author that appeals to a wide audience and tackles thought provoking topics. In her latest book she addresses a high school shooting (teen interest). The previously blogged book also dealt with a school shooting, but that shooting was more isolated and between three students. Picoult's novel addresses a wider attack, with the shooter rampaging through the school, killing ten people. The shooting happens within the first chapter, Peter clearly being identified as the shooter. The novel then follows the characters after that event and focuses on multiple people involved. Besides Peter there are his parents (Lacy and Lewis) who have to figure out their guilt in this event and their relationship with their son; Josie, a student who was not shot by Peter and who lost her boyfriend in the shooting; Alex, Josie's mom and a local judge; Patrick, the detective who found Peter and Josie at the end of the shooting; and Jordan, the defense attorney hired to represent Peter. All of these characters have their own drama and importance in the days following the horrific event.

It is a compelling novel, especially as it battles the affects of bullying in the shooting, an explanation that almost sounds cliched as it seems to be the root of most teens that turn into gun wielding murderers of their peers. Peter's guilt is established early on in the novel, so it is interesting to see the strategy his lawyer comes up with for getting an acquittal - an ending I prayed wouldn't come as I sympathized with the victims (nicely done on the author's part). As intriguing as I thought this book was, I felt as if those feelings only referred to half of the book. As a big fan of Picoult's novels, I was disappointed in her latest, particularly because of the writing style/layout. Because she has so many characters that she's focusing on, a page in a half or so would be on one character, and then it would change to another, and another and there was a constant transition that became slightly tiresome. But that's not my main complaint; it was relatively easy to follow those transitions. What I did not like was how one chapter was present while another was in the past. 17 years ago. Present. Then 12 years ago. Present. 1 year ago and so on. I understood the importance of these backtracks as they established character and showed relationships between the characters, but I felt as if took too much time away from the story. There are simpler ways to establish that two characters are friends rather than completely detailing the character's birth or the third grade. Part of this complaint might just be my reading preference (I prefer something more linear and straightforward) but I felt some of the back pedaling was just too much character development for my taste.

The novel wasn't horrible, but it wasn't my favorite of Picoult. She's somewhat known for throwing in a curve ball come the end of the novel, but this time it was predictable which added to disappointment. People who like straightforward stories that go from one point to the next, won't be thrilled with this novel and it's constant visit to the past. The past does enhance the characters, but it slows the story. Overall, this was an interesting look into the aftermath of a school shooting.

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