Thursday, September 23, 2010

Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult

Nineteen Minutes

by Jodi Picoult
published 2007
completed September 2010

I picked up Nineteen Minutes as part of the Take Another Chance Challenge hosted by Jenners.  This particular challenge was to break a prejudice.  I became aware of Jodi Picoult when the movie My Sister’s Keeper came out in theaters.  I read the reviews and learned that it was weepy and melodramatic, so I avoided it.  I assumed that all of her books were similar and that type of book doesn’t appeal to me.  For the challenge only, I gave Picoult a chance.

Nineteen Minutes centers on a school shooting.  The title comes from the length of time the rampage of Peter Houghton lasts.  This takes place in a small and seemingly safe town.  Peter had been a victim of bullying from the time he began kindergarten.  The narrative changes points of view between several characters, and jumps back and forth between the present and the past. 

Picoult tries to lay out both sides of the argument.  Is the shooter responsible, or was this a direct result of more than a decade of bullying?  I appreciate the attempt that she made to humanize the shooter, but I didn’t buy it.  There was a disconnect between how she described Peter and the way that he acted during the shooting.  He seems cold and calculating during those nineteen minutes, but incredibly sensitive and caring before and after the shooting.

This is my first Picoult novel, but I have heard from others that there is always a twist at the end, so I wasn’t surprised when it happened.  The twist at the end really ruined it.  It was so implausible and out of character.  The writing isn’t terrible, but some of the descriptive passages made me feel like she was trying too hard with the similes.  The melodrama of all of their personal lives seemed to manipulative in trying to force an emotional response.  I can’t believe that all of those people’s lives could be that screwed up.  There was so much tragedy.

I don’t know how realistic it was in depicting high school bullying.   I never witnessed anything that extreme, but I guess it is possible.  As a mother, it was helpful to remind me of some things that I can be doing to help my children so they don’t bully or allow themselves to become victims.

Overall, it wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t great.  I probably won’t pick up another Picoult novel, so it didn’t really break my prejudice, but at least I gave the author a chance.  I wouldn’t recommend this book, but there are many who have enjoyed it.  If you are interested in the topic of school shootings, it might be worth a read.


  1. I, too, have only read one Picoult book (though not this one), and my reaction was similar. If someone "insists" I read another of hers, I probably won't be completely resistant, but I don't think I'll be seeking any of them out on my own.

  2. I didn't think this was her best book. Ironically, I liked "Her Sister's Keeper" the best (but I didn't see the movie).

    Oh well, you gave her a shot!