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Nineteen Minutesby Jodi Picoult
"If empathy is an inoculation against violence, then Picoult's own compassion for her characters goes beyond good storytelling to political statement; she models the deep sympathy that might have averted the tragedy....She even takes us inside the bullies, revealing that they too are constantly nervous about their own place in the hierarchy. After all, when masculinity is a zero-sum game — when asserting it means undermining someone else's — everyone's status is uncertain." Jessica Stites, Ms. Magazine (read the entire Ms. Magazine review)
Synopses & Reviews
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 by a dentist; you can fold laundry for a family of five....In nineteen minutes, you can stop the world, or you can just jump off it. In nineteen minutes, you can get revenge.
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.
Nineteen Minutes is New York Times bestselling author Jodi Picoult's most raw, honest, and important novel yet. Told with the straightforward style for which she has become known, it asks simple questions that have no easy answers: Can your own child become a mystery to you? What does it mean to be different in our society? Is it ever okay for a victim to strike back? And who — if anyone — has the right to judge someone else?
"Bestseller Picoult (My Sister's Keeper) takes on another contemporary hot-button issue in her brilliantly told new thriller, about a high school shooting. Peter Houghton, an alienated teen who has been bullied for years by the popular crowd, brings weapons to his high school in Sterling, N.H., one day and opens fire, killing 10 people. Flashbacks reveal how bullying caused Peter to retreat into a world of violent computer games. Alex Cormier, the judge assigned to Peter's case, tries to maintain her objectivity as she struggles to understand her daughter, Josie, one of the surviving witnesses of the shooting. The author's insights into her characters' deep-seated emotions brings this ripped-from-the-headlines read chillingly alive." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Early in 'Nineteen Minutes,' Detective Patrick Ducharme walks through a deserted crime scene. Artifacts have been left behind: 'the Wonder-bread sandwiches scarred by only one bite; the tub of Cherry Bomb lip gloss ... the salt-and-pepper composition notebooks filled with study sheets on Aztec civilization and margin notes about the current one: I luv Zach S!!!' It's eerily ordinary — until... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review) you notice the dead bodies. This is the cafeteria of Sterling (N.H.) High School, shortly after a gunman has killed 10 people and wounded many others. His rampage lasted 19 minutes. As the prosecutor will later point out, 'In nineteen minutes, you can mow the front lawn, color your hair, watch a third of a hockey game. You can bake scones or get a tooth filled by a dentist. You can fold laundry for a family of five. Or ... you can bring the world to a screeching halt.' There's never any doubt that the gunman was Peter Houghton, a 17-year-old student. Hundreds of witnesses confirm it. Now, justice must be accomplished — properly, and not by an angry mob. It won't be easy in this small town where everybody is connected. Peter's mother, for instance, is the midwife who delivered Josie Cormier. Peter and Josie were best friends until puberty hit and Josie became a 'cool girl' while Peter remained a nerd. Matt Royston, Josie's dazzling boyfriend, was Peter's last victim. Josie's mother, Alex Cormier, is the judge who will try Peter's case — unless she can be brought to recuse herself. And these are only the most salient connections. Dozens of others must be traced as the authorities piece together why the shooting happened. Parent-child relationships are central to 'Nineteen Minutes.' When you're a teenager, the fact of parents is unavoidable, even when they're not very good at being parents. For Josie's single mother, it's easy to be a judge and hard to be a mother; everything she says 'comes out wrong.' To Peter, his parents seem equally inept and obtuse. But then, most adolescents find their parents wanting; so how does a normal teenage worldview turn into a homicidal one? As Picoult answers this question, the sociology of Sterling High School comes to life: nerds and jocks and brains, adults from another planet, school as heaven or hell. For many of us, high school meant self-discovery complicated by acne, prom anxiety and the perfidy of other teenagers. Though we've never been homecoming queen or most valuable player, we've made our peace with our own uncoolness. But at Sterling, a nerd doesn't have that relief. Bullying doesn't officially exist — ask any grown-up — but if you're a nerd, you know what to expect. At the very least, cool girls will look at you as if you were a bug on the windshield. If you're lucky, the abuse will be verbal: The guys will call you freak or homo or retard. On a bad day, they'll crush your glasses or stuff you into a locker. Torment could come from any direction at any time, and you live in the adolescent version of post-traumatic stress disorder. For some adult characters in the novel, this diagnosis is news, but no teenager would be surprised to hear it. Certainly the reader is not surprised to hear about HIDE-N-SHRIEK, the video game Peter created, in which the underdog gets a chance to annihilate the bullies with weapons found in any school building. Peter's ingenuity is appalling and pathetic and almost valiant; like Josie, he's a person of moral complexity. The adult characters, however, tend to be one-sided and given to making snappy comebacks with a frequency that's entertaining but not plausible. The judge has such gumption and good sense that her refrain of maternal inadequacy just doesn't ring true. Picoult is the author of 13 other novels, most of them widely popular, but I came to 'Nineteen Minutes' with no previous Picoult experience. It's absorbing and expertly made. On one level, it's a thriller, complete with dismaying carnage, urgent discoveries and 11th-hour revelations, but it also asks serious moral questions about the relationship between the weak and the strong, questions that provide what school people call 'teachable moments.' If compassion can be taught, Picoult may be just the one to teach it. Frances Taliaferro is a writer in New York." Reviewed by Marc LeepsonJames M. LindsayRon CharlesColin McGinnMichael DirdaJonathan YardleyArt TaylorJuliet EilperinFrances Taliaferro, Washington Post Book World (Copyright 2006 Washington Post Book World Service/Washington Post Writers Group)
(hide most of this review)
"Every bit as gripping and moving as Picoult's previous novels, Nineteen Minutes will no doubt garner considerable attention for its controversial subject and twist ending." Booklist
"Picoult has that rare ability to write about an unnerving subject in a way readers will find absorbing....Her 14th novel, perhaps her best, is highly recommended...." Library Journal
"Jodi Picoult is a rare writer who delivers, book after book, a winning combination of the literary and the commercial....No reader can possibly foresee the book's stunning denouement. This is vintage Picoult, expertly crafted, thought-provoking, and compelling. (Grade: A)" Entertainment Weekly
"Nineteen Minutes may not plumb great psychological depths or scale literary heights....And yet its very ordinariness gives it surprising power." USA Today
"A tale that invites discomfort, Nineteen Minutes is not for the skittish reader." Charlotte Observer
"Conventional suspense readers may not find Picoult fresh or complex enough, but her compelling legal and courtroom drama, combined with honest insights into the world of teens, succeeds overall." Providence Journal
"Picoult's adept character development and intelligent plot twists make for a story that runs deeper than mere voyeurism or titillation." Rocky Mountain News
"Usually so adept at shaping the big stories with nuance, Picoult here takes a tragically familiar event, pads it with plot, but leaves out the subtleties of character....Picoult falters in her exploration of what turns a quiet kid into a murderer." Kirkus Reviews
"There are reasons why Ms. Picoult's books are so widely read....These novels have soap-opera momentum, and they guarantee comforting closure." Janet Maslin, New York Times
The bestselling author of My Sister's Keeper and Vanishing Acts returns with her most absorbing novel yet, the poignant story of the aftermath of a tragic high school shooting. This is a riveting, thought-provoking tale with a jaw-dropping ending.
At Home with Jodi Picoult
About the Author
Jodi Picoult received an A.B. in creative writing from Princeton and a master's degree in education from Harvard. The recipient of the 2003 New England Book Award for her entire body of work, she is the author of fourteen novels, including The Tenth Circle, Vanishing Acts, and My Sister's Keeper, for which she received the American Library Association's Margaret Alexander Edwards Award. Recently, she penned several issues of Wonder Woman for DC Comics. She lives in New Hampshire with her husband and three children. Visit her website at www.jodipicoult.com.
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