Jodi Picoult, bestselling author of My Sister's Keeper and The Tenth Circle, pens her most riveting book yet, with a startling and poignant story about the devastating aftermath of a small-town tragedy. Sterling is an ordinary New Hampshire town where nothing ever happens--until the day its complacency is shattered by an act of violence.
Josie Cormier, the daughter of the judge sitting on the case, should be the state's best witness, but she can't remember what happened before her very own eyes--or can she? 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 asks what it means to be different in our society, who has the right to judge someone else, and whether anyone is ever really who they seem to be. -Summary from Goodreads
I just read and enjoyed Picoult's My Sister's Keeper. So, of course, I decided to check out another of her books. As most of you know, she has about a million titles out there so it was slightly intimidating as to which book I should pick. I looked around and saw that many ranked Nineteen Minutes as one of their favorite Picoult picks. That was good enough for me and I picked it up.
The book centers around a school shooting in a small town. Tough subject matter. I was in high school when Columbine happened and I remember coming home from school, turning on the TV and seeing kids my own age running out of their school or climbing out the windows. It was frightening for me and I was a full state away, watching from the safety of my living room. I remember thinking that it couldn't happen at my school, in my town but I imagine the kids in Columbine thought the same thing just the day before.
This book made me think back on the dynamics in high school. I was not a popular kid, nor was I picked on or tormented. Sure, I had a joke or two made at my expense and once in junior high I heard some girls thought me and my best friends were lesbians because we were a bit different than everyone else but we managed to just laugh it off, it was no big deal and it all blew over. So I never understood the extreme bullying that leads these kids to shoot their peers. I just never saw anything that I felt would warrant those types of feelings. After Columbine and some of the other shooting that happened after, I just figured these kids were disturbed to begin with and went back to my comforting belief that it wouldn't happen at my school. I know looking back that it's just something I had to tell myself so I would walk in the door everyday.
This book was fascinating because it explores all sides of the story, including that of the shooter. His parts were especially hard to read. I would start to feel bad for him, I'd start to understand how he was pushed to this extreme and then he'd do or say something that made me disgusted by him all over again. However, his mother broke my heart. I can't imagine hearing that your own child did something so calculated and horrific. I can't imagine wondering what you'd done wrong or questioning every single parenting decision you'd ever made looking for the reason your son turned into a psychopath.
We also hear from one of the students that survived the shooting. A popular girl who was once friends with the shooter. Her story frustrated me to no end. She allows her new friends to torment her old friend just because she's afraid they'll turn on her if she sticks up for him. She allows these people to treat her like dirt as well, just to stay popular. I couldn't stand her whining and crying. In many ways, I felt she was a worse person that the shooter. He was just a kid pushed too far. She was the one that was helping to push. Neither one got any real sympathy from me.
Overall, I think it was an interesting, albeit disturbing, look into a tragedy, the aftermath and an exploration of what led up to that point. There's a little twist at the end that I'm a bit torn on. I'm still not sure how I feel about it. It made me mad and frustrated and a slew of other things but mostly it made me sad. The whole book just made me sad.