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
1.
 Rich with psychological and social insight. If you like psychology, I’m sure you’ll enjoy reading this.
2. 
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?
3.
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.
4.
For further reading: School shootings category, Wikipedia 
5.
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

Thoughts?

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