How did your reading go this month? Did you enjoy reading a Jodi Picoult book, or maybe one of the read-alikes?
For this month’s challenge I read Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult. It covers a difficult subject (which is typical of most of Picoult’s books) but it was also fascinating, engaging and thoughtful and it takes the time to look at the issues from both sides. I’m still thinking about this story days after finishing it.
Nineteen minutes is all it takes for Peter Houghton to walk into his small town high school, kill 10 students, wound many others and completely change the course of hundreds of lives. Why did Peter go on this rampage, what was the trigger that sent him to the school that day with loaded guns and how do those left behind move on?
Always sensitive and nerdy, Peter has been relentlessly bullied throughout school. At home he lives in his recently deceased brother’s shadow who was everything he is not – athletic and popular. His best friend abandons him to join the popular crowd, the cruelty of the bullying escalates and the school administration is unwilling/unable to help beyond platitudes. Humiliated in front of the entire school, Peter sees no way out.
So, who is at fault? Is Peter a monster or misunderstood? Are his parents at fault – did they give him too much attention or not enough? Was it the school that stated no tolerance for bullying, but tended to look the other way when it involved popular kids or jocks? Was it Peter’s fellow students who, even if they didn’t condone the bullying, did nothing to discourage it and even participated?
This book is often difficult to read. While descriptions of the actual shooting are not graphic and are scattered in small bits throughout the book, Picoult does not mince on the horror and fear. Peter is sometimes a sympathetic character – the constant bullying is very difficult to read – but he is also sullen and withdrawn and unpleasant. Many people in the town blame Peter’s parents and yet, they’re as confused and grief stricken as everyone else, blaming themselves and yet not know what they could have done to prevent the shooting. The court trial is tense and dramatic as more and more evidence is presented and people are forced to confront the fact that their small, quiet town is far from perfect or safe.
Well written and with multiple point-of-views, Nineteen Minutes would make an ideal book club book with lots of discussion points. Because there has been so many of similar school shootings in the news over the past decade, I would recommend that you read this with caution. It is, however, well worth reading.
Now it’s your turn – what did you read this month?