Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Nineteen Minutes, Jodi Picoult

I've never read any of Jodi Picoult's books before and wasn't quite sure what to expect. After reading Columbine and The Hate List earlier this year I somehow heard about Nineteen Minutes.

I feel like this book is made for a book club discussion because it brings up such a wide variety of issues. It is a really densely packed book with lots of characters and time jumps backwards and forwards. There is a lot going on and I was impressed with Jodi Picoult's ability to keep things moving along without getting muddled.

What I liked:
-the focus on Peter's (the shooter's) mother, Lacy. This was the thread that had the most interest and in some ways the most sadness to me. Speculating about how life would be for someone in this situation was painfully compelling. At one point she asks her husband "What was Hitler's mother named?"
-the fact that at least one of the worst bullies got skewered on the witness stand for being so sadistic to Peter for years was pretty satisfying to read. Many of the victims in this shooting were truly horrible, nasty people. Lots of reviews I've read mention that in some ways this story has you sympathesizing with Peter over his victims.

What I Really Didn't Like:
-the twist ending- I am just not a fan of books that like to pull a gotcha in the last chapters and change everything. For me it took away from the main impact of this book: understanding what could motivate someone to commit a crime like this. By introducing the whole Josie angle it felt very tv movie of the week to me. That is what I closed the book thinking about and being irritated about instead of remembering what happened to Peter and what he did.

There really is way more going on in this book than I have the brain power or energy to write about at the moment. I am genuinely surprised and impressed by Jodi Picoult's writing ability. There were moments when her style got a little too flowery for my taste but overall I liked it.

It was hard not to spend the day thinking about bullying, especially being surrounded by kids. Another teacher and I talked a bit about it and the scary thing is how powerless you can feel even as an adult and an authority figure in a school. I honestly don't know what teachers can do to help in bullying situations short of shadowing the children constantly which is impossible. Kids who are determined to hurt other kids usually find a way. Luckily for me I work in such a small school where we know all of the kids. I've definitely never witnessed or heard about anything approaching the experiences Peter had in his elementary school (in fact the stories from his elementary school days were the hardest for me to buy into because of that fact).

Cover Thoughts:
The top cover is the one I have and it is my least favorite. I don't know whose hands we're looking at. Initially I though maybe just some random traumatized teenagers but by the end I'm wondering if it is supposed to be Josie & Peter... but that doesn't seem very realistic to me.

The middle one is the British cover and while I like the nostalgic look back to Josie & Peter's childhood, the overall feel is too cutesy for a book about school shootings.

The bottom one is from Australia and is my favorite. I wish it was the version I had. The dark colors of the lockers and the small, waifish teenage boy on the cover look so much more appropriate to me.

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