Annalisa's Reviews > Nineteen Minutes

Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult
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really liked it
bookshelves: book-club, issue, psychology, contemporary
Recommended to Annalisa by: McKay Robinson

I tend to rate books by how much they make me think, how much they make me feel, and how much they draw me into their world. With an almost obsessive interest in Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, Nineteen Minutes gets high marks from me. The book starts with the scene of a school shooting where you feel a disgust for the kid doing the shooting and sorrow for the victims but as you glean settings from flashbacks you come to sympathize with everyone in the book as a victim, each experiencing loss of different degrees. I can almost exactly correlate my feelings with the timeline of Columbine grief. In that sense the raw emotions were very real. But in the exaggerated small outcast boy, the popular snotty girls, the stupid cruel jocks, the overprotective parents, and all the other stereotypes I found myself resisting relating to the characters. Sometimes it felt very real, but occasionally it felt like statistics (especially with the random foreign last names).

As your emotions are pulled to sympathize with one person then the next, you're left with the questions of who to blame, who to feel sorry for in the wake of a tragedy. For me I have a natural tendency to defend the underdog, to want to understand what put the perpetrator over the edge, while still reserving a small amount of accountability for them. It was obvious that Picoult seems to share the same allegiance to the bullied, but I would have liked to hear a little more about the stories of those who were shot and understand their motivations. I wanted to feel just as ashamed and saddened for them instead of focusing on aligning emotions with the ones the newscasters want to blame. I enjoyed the forum of different voices in the stories, but where were the voices of the victims who were also causes? Why does somebody bully? Tell their story too. I wish Picoult had put me just as much inside the head of the bulliers as the bulliee to optimize the circle of tragedy.

I kept thinking about those people we all knew and know on the fringe of high school society whom you just hold your breath for in hopes that they make it through without disaster. Some people you just don't know will survive high school. Any lethal combination of triggers could have just as easily brewed a tragedy at any high school. When tragedy does occur, it's human tendency to want to find the triggers and signs that could have made it avoidable, but can anyone really say what is too much for anyone to handle? It makes you wish everyone could live high school with the empathy and understanding we receive later in life, or at least a glimpse of how we will someday overcome it.

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Reading Progress

February 18, 2009 – Shelved
February 19, 2009 –
page 45
10.23% "I'm guessing Jodi Picoult doesn't like happy stories."
Started Reading
February 20, 2009 – Shelved as: book-club
February 20, 2009 – Finished Reading
August 21, 2010 – Shelved as: issue
August 21, 2010 – Shelved as: psychology
March 27, 2011 – Shelved as: contemporary

Comments Showing 1-1 of 1 (1 new)

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Kathy Sarlog I liked your comment about getting inside the heads of the bullies - - as characters, they were very one-dimensional, which made their murders almost desirable. I'd have loved for her to explore why they all felt this need to make Peter a scapegoat, maybe find some conflicted feelings about it (like with Josie).


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