By Jodi Picoult
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Adult Publishing Group Pub.
Date: February 2008
Here’s a bit from the book:
“In nineteen minutes, you can mow the front lawn, color 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. In nineteen minutes, you can get revenge.”
Were you ever picked on as a child? In the 2nd grade, there was a 6th grade boy that made my life a living hell. I’m not sure why he felt the need to do it, but I remember walking to school, not knowing if I was ever going to make it to school in one piece. The school day was no better. I’d be out on the playground only to be punched in the stomach or pushed to the ground. The aides didn’t seem to care what happened to me. Everyone has their limits though and when I hit mine, the end result was a 6th grade boy, bawling his head off with two broken teeth in his mouth. Yep, I decked him! Now, I am not a fan of violence but it sure felt good.
This story is like that but on a much bigger scale. Peter and Josie are childhood friends. Peter is teased mercilessly throughout his formative years. Josie eventually gives in to peer pressure and begins to hang out with the same kids that have it in for Peter. Since Josie is really the only close friend that Peter has, this hurts him deeply. After a particularly cruel prank leaves him completely raw and exposed, he takes exactly nineteen minutes to end the hurt for good.
This is my first experience with a Picoult novel. At first, I was a bit distracted with the flashbacks and flash forwards. They were necessary to tell the story, but I am just not a big fan of a lot of flashbacks. However, I do feel that in the end, they worked well.
I had a hard time liking the characters, but I’m not sure Picoult wanted me to like them per se. They were flawed, the parents included, but very realistically drawn. I didn’t have any issues with believability. I did feel sorry for Peter, even with what he did in the end. I identified with his pain but my frustration mounted as adult after adult chose to look the other way.
This is an incredibly sad story of a child who fell through the cracks. It’s a story that stays with you and although my kids have not hit the tweens quite yet, it has made me think about the upcoming teen years and what I can do as a parent to be there for my kids. Not just in the room, but present and involved in their lives without forcing myself upon them.
After reading this one, I am looking forward to reading some of Picoult’s other novels. My book group is meeting on Thursday to discuss this one but I may not be able to make it due to Open House at the school. I know there will be a lot to discuss so I am crossing my fingers that I can do both.