Nineteen Minutes

Nineteen Minutes

by Jodi Picoult

Kim Sisto Robinson: In nineteen minutes a world can turn upside down, inside out, and transform into Hell on Earth. That's precisely what happens inside Sterling High School. One minute life is going forward as expected and the next minute it stops. Just STOPS. And Hell arrives. The Devil shows up with a shot gun and murders every student in sight.

Jodi Picoult's writing style allows the reader to climb inside every character's psyche and perspective. As I read, I thought to myself, "No way is Picoult going to make me feel empathy for the shooter, Peter Houghton. Absolutely Not!" But she did. Not only for the shooter, but for a whole society.

On Peter's first day of Kindergarten, his mom packed a lovely lunch in his small tin box: sandwiches, Twinkies, an apple, a little bit of love. And some bully throws the entire box out of the bus window and here we are left with an image of a large red apple rolling down the cement highway. And this is only the beginning of Peter Houghton's tormented school experience.

The narrative weaves back and forth, each character getting his or her chance to yell, scream, cry, and analyze the tragedy: Peter's mom, the families of the victims, the students, prosecutors, defense lawyers, survivors, and the teachers. They all get an opportunity to speak. One thing is for sure, Picoult makes her readers ride a roller coaster of deep emotion, heartbreak, and indecision. Nothing. Absolutely black or white or this way or that way. And in the end, we need to make our own decision about whether we will forgive Peter Houghton for his horrific, evil, life changing decision to pick up that gun, walk into Sterling High School, and KILL.

"I never found who I really wanted to kill." Peter finally confesses to his attorney. "Who was that?" He asks. "Myself." Peter says.
Rating: ****

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