Nineteen Minutes

“When you don’t fit in, you become superhuman. You can feel everyone else’s eyes on you, stuck like Velcro. You can hear a whisper about you from a mile away. You can disappear, even when it looks like you’re still standing right there. You can scream, and nobody hears a sound.
You become the mutant who fell into the vat of acid, the Joker who can’t remove his mask, the bionic man who’s missing all his limbs and none of his heart.
You are the thing that used to be normal, but that was so long ago, you can’t even remember what it was like. ”
― Jodi Picoult, Nineteen Minutes

Nineteen Minutes, published in 2007, is a novel by Jodi Picoult. It is a book about a school shooting, and focuses on the events leading up to and following the incident. The story begins on March 6, 2007 in the small town of Sterling following the lives of a number of characters on an “ordinary day.”

I don’t want to tell you too much about the plot. There are many characters who are all connected and the story is told through their perspectives. In short, 17-year-old high school student Peter Houghton has endured years of bullying. His best friend, Josie Cormier hangs out with the popular crowd and doesn’t want to have anything to do with him. Finally, one final incident of bullying sends Peter over the edge.

School shooting case is assigned to the superior court judge, Alex Cormier. Her daughter Josie has witnessed the events at the school—and Alex must decide whether or not to take the case. Josie, meanwhile, claims she can’t remember what happened during the incident. And then there are Peter’s parents who try to see what they might have said or done to compel their son to such extremes.

“If you spent your life concentrating on what everyone else thought of you, would you forget who you really were? What if the face you showed the world turned out to be a mask… with nothing beneath it?”
― Jodi Picoult, Nineteen Minutes

“If you gave someone your heart and they died, did they take it with them? Did you spend the rest of forever with a hole inside you that couldn’t be filled?”
― Jodi Picoult, Nineteen Minutes

I don’t what to tell you. I liked this book. It has a complex structure, many characters and I like how it reads, little by little you learn more and more about what happened and how it happened and there are some really good plot twists. And all the psychology and all the moral questions this ‘Nineteen Minutes’ raises. Also I like how Picoult makes us understand the mind of the school shooter. It’s harder to judge him.

I first read this book in 2008 when it was translated into Finnish. I was very touched by it because there had been a school shooting in Finland in 2007 and somehow this book helped me to understand more what had happened. Also, I was bullied in school at the time and I connected with the line “When you don’t fit in, you become superhuman…” and I felt like I was the Joker. That is perhaps one of my most favorite lines in literature, I like it because usually having superhuman strength is an advantage but here in this case it becomes a disadvantage. Finally, I guess this novel also carries some kind of message of hope, that nothing lasts forever.

5/5 stars

How to Read Nineteen Minutes
 Rich with psychological and social insight. If you like psychology, I’m sure you’ll enjoy reading this.
Excellent writing & interesting plot twists. This book also makes you think of various moral issues: peer pressure, popularity, self-image, school bullying, single parenthood, communication barriers…  & How well do we know someone?
This is a difficult book to read. It’s quite long, deals with school shooting and the story is told through past and present of very many characters.
For further reading: School shootings category, Wikipedia 
If you’re already a fan of Picoult, you should definitely read this. If you liked this, you should read her other books. She has a way with writing novels that carry serious themes like this. Nineteen Minutes also connects with some of her other books.

“You don’t need water to feel like you’re drowning, do you?”
― Jodi Picoult, Nineteen Minutes


18 thoughts on “Nineteen Minutes

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  1. I love this novel. It was one of my favourites of Jodi Picoult’s. The only part I didn’t like was the twist that Josie shot her boyfriend. I mean, I can understand why, but being privy to so many of her thoughts, I felt kind of betrayed. (I mean, I don’t mind twists at all, but I feel kind of cheated. Josie remembered for most of the novel, and she never thinks about it? She thinks about everything else, but that? I can’t imagine that I was largely responsible for my boyfriend’s death – abusive arse or not – and NOT be thinking about my actions!) But my favourite part was that I actually sympathised with Peter. I actually understood his actions. And, to murder that many people, and injure even more, for an author to get the reader to sympathise with what he did (even if I don’t agree with it, obviously) is pretty impressive. I really loved it.

    1. Mine too! So far all Picoult’s books have been very good. One of those authors who make you think and understand the world around you. I get your point. I don’t know I got the feeling that she somehow locked herself away from thinking about it? so it wasn’t that weird.

      I liked that too. It was very hard to judge Peter for his actions. Of course what he did was wrong and we all know that but where does the line go,when is something too much, when do you have the right to take revenge.

      Thank you for commenting! :)

      1. I know! I’m really a fan of her. That’s a good point, but for some reason I didn’t see it that way! I don’t know why, but it felt like a betrayal. I guess that’s a silly reaction, but that’s how I felt. I also felt like she was punished for a lot of Peter’s actions (in regards to her sentence). I feel like if she’d normally just shot him in the stomach, outside of a school shooting, and detailed the abuse she’d been facing, she wouldn’t have had such a lengthy sentence. After all, she didn’t kill him. Peter did. I felt like people needed to blame her, too, in a way. No problems!! It was a great post :) I loved it!

        1. I think I was surprised by her actions but I didn’t really like Josie at all in the book. I think that’s accurate, if she would have shot him some other place, some other time then maybe she wouldn’t have gotten that sentence, though in the end she still shot him. And maybe she felt like she deserved that sentence so maybe we readers thought that to in a way. Haha I like about Jodi’s books, they’re kind of like this happened, make of it what you will. Thank you! :)

          1. I wasn’t a huge fan of Josie, either. Although I thought her mother was worse. I couldn’t believe when she wanted to be the judge. I was like, are you kidding!? This is your daughter!

            1. Her mother was horrible! -_- I mean if you decide to have kids, you’re supposed to put them first. Or if your career is more important then not to have kids

              1. I so agree! I mean, I get being a single mum with a successful for career is hard. And I didn’t doubt any of her decisions, up until Josie went through a shooting, where her boyfriend had been murdered, and she wanted to continue as the judge! I thought that was the worst possible decision she could have done. It was the worst thing possible for Josie. Who does that!?

                1. True! Parenting gone wrong! Though, then again on the other hand, I guess it’s a flaw in our nature. We always think we have time, that we have time to do something or to fix something. But we don’t. And I suppose Josie’s mother thought that her daughter will still be around later but this is once in a lifetime opportunity. That if she has a better career, she’ll be a better provider for her daughter.

  2. I’m sorry to hear you were bullied. I hate bullying of any kind, especially the cyber sort. Nineteen Minutes looks like a great story – will look it up in bookshop or on Amazon.

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