Nineteen Minutes Book Review2 min read

“In nineteen minutes, you can mow the front lawn; colour your hair; watch a third of a hockey game. In nineteen minutes you can bake scones or get a tooth filled by a dentist; you can fold laundry for a family of five. In nineteen minutes you can stop the world; or you can just jump off it.”

Author: Jodi Picoult                                 Published: 2007                                 Pages: 455

After reading the blurb of this novel, I was left with an assumption of how I would feel after I had finished. The premise of the novel is about something which is all too common in American high schools – shootings. So I assumed it would be a compelling and tragic narrative. But imagine if the person doing the shooting was your son, whose bullying had become so unbearable that “his revenge was murder.” Then what? Where would your allegiance lie? With him, or the families of the dead and wounded whose lives have changed forever because off the consequences of your offspring?

Picoult’s gripping thriller captivates the reader and more importantly makes you reassess the way you view the situation. I loved the way that Picoult chose to switch perspectives, showing how the circumstance affected the lives of Lacey, Alex, Peter, Josie and a whole community of people in different ways. But what I found even more compelling about this novel is the way she portrays the shooter, not as a monster or a bully, but as a victim. Sure, it’s not right to shower murderers with sympathy, but what Picoult makes clear is that it is the consequences of society’s actions which create people capable of such acts. This is exactly the kind of novel which stayed with me long after I had turned the last page.

The characters in Nineteen Minutes were both familiar and shocking; they were realistic in chilling way, a way that makes you think you never really know anyone at all.

While I will admit that the novel was possibly a little lengthy, the whole book documents the nineteen minute shooting ordeal while jumping around in the past and present to provide context and keep tension. Picoult manages to keep the plot exciting while delving into the deepest part of human emotion. Her portrayal of a complicated mother-daughter relationship becomes a strikingly familiar scene as she challenges our engrained binaries of good and evil. She makes you think about the judgement you’re making, and more importantly reminds us that the actions we make are because of our faults as humans. Plus, Picoult’s formulaic twist, while not quite standing up to the likes of My Sister’s Keeper, is hauntingly brilliant.

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