Review: Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult

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.

Sterling is a small, ordinary New Hampshire town where nothing ever happens — until the day its complacency is shattered by a shocking act of violence. In the aftermath, the town’s residents must not only seek justice in order to begin healing but also come to terms with the role they played in the tragedy. For them, the lines between truth and fiction, right and wrong, insider and outsider have been obscured forever. Josie Cormier, the teenage daughter of the judge sitting on the case, could be the state’s best witness, but she can’t remember what happened in front of her own eyes. And as the trial progresses, fault lines between the high school and the adult community begin to show, destroying the closest of friendships and families.

Nineteen Minutes is New York Times bestselling author Jodi Picoult’s most raw, honest, and important novel yet. Told with the straightforward style for which she has become known, it asks simple questions that have no easy answers: Can your own child become a mystery to you? What does it mean to be different in our society? Is it ever okay for a victim to strike back? And who — if anyone — has the right to judge someone else? (Goodreads)

This is my third Jodi Picoult book (after The Storyteller/The Pact), and quite honestly, this book, Nineteen Minutes is hands down my favorite Jodi Picoult book so far.

I started this book at the vehement recommendation from my fellow bloggers and Twitter friends, and I am so glad that I trusted their judgment – this book thoroughly entertained me from beginning to end, especially the court scene in the last 20 percent of the book is such a page-turner and I just couldn’t put it down.

I didn’t even know this book is somewhat related to The Pact (which I’m not 100% sure though), I was mildly surprised to find two characters from The Pact (Jordan and Selena) make an appearance and play an integral part of the story in this book as well.

Jodi Picoult’s writing is solid and strong as ever, she never disappoints in terms of her prowess in writing. The same goes for the story-crafting and character observations, I was, once again, completely enthralled by her detailed character design. It is quite introspective, compelling and – more than anything – pregnant with meaning. As her prose is very distinctive and she expresses things which we all identify with but tend to forget in a way that very few people can come up with, I sometimes had to re-read the same sentence, or the same paragraph several times to let it sink in on me.
That said though, as I briefly mentioned earlier, the messages are right on the mark and cut right into the truth, so I couldn’t help but give the nod to almost everything discussed in this book.

The background of this book – school shooting – is quite close to home and fresh in my memory, I was a bit disturbed by the plot.
Not only is the mass shooting in the school premises striking enough, the cause of the shooting – bullying – is narrated in detail (quite thoroughly), in addition to what I personally think Jodi Picoult’s hallmark, her on-point introspective character depiction, made this book so gripping and totally unputdownable. The cruelty of bullying stole my breath in a very disturbing way. It was persistent and brutal, the delivery is beyond reproach. My heart ached for Peter. I ended up devouring this book in two days. I think that speaks volumes how addictive and emotionally charged this book is.

I might have made this book out to be all about school shooting and the justice surrounding it, but I must stress this book is also a brilliantly written human drama.
Just like The Pact, most of the main characters are flawed and agonized by their issues. For instance, Alex, a district Judge and mother of Josie is level-headed and fair-square putting an unflappable, perfect mask. But she miserably fails to forge a strong bond with her daughter. Whatever she does backfires and broadens the emotional distance between Josie to the extent Josie feels comfortable at her mother’s absence.
By the same token, the daughter, Josie, has also been battling with her insecurities and striving to ‘fit in’ and to be regard as one of those ‘cool kids’ in high school.
The words and deeds of each character lead to another undesirable, unfortunate outcome like a vicious cycle, and eventually culminate in a totally unexpected twist.

Once again, I was captivated by the way Jodi Picoult weaved this compelling story by tactfully interweaving each character’s back stories and recollections of their past. Her thorough character design and depictions of her characters’ emotions certainly gave a lot of depth and insight to this book, making it a really riveting read.

I must say that I felt the overall vibe and the development in the court scene was kind of similar to The Pact (on the ground of the both defendants decided to take the stand at the last-minute), it didn’t bother me at all. It was as realistic and strong as The Pact, I was glued to the book till the end.

The ending is particularly satisfactory. I appreciated Jodi Picoult taking time in building up the perpetrator’s (and their family) side of the stories and depicting how they end up.
It is as plain as day that the victims’ lives are completely affected and altered by the incident, but this book also depicts how drastically the perpetrator(s) and their life can be affected and that they have to live down the indelible fact for the rest of their lives.
It was poignant, yet each character’s subsequent lives are delineated well, I saw resolutions and hope in some of them.

I thank my friends for recommending me this book. I totally enjoyed reading this and this book is definitely one of my favorites. I like this book even better than The Pact!

My Rating: ★★★★★

16 thoughts on “Review: Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult

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  1. I think one of my favorite things about this book was the question it presented: is Peter EVIL? We tend to villainize shooters, but as you’re reading you really get to know Peter, and he’s like, a regular human being, albeit a bit of a dark one. Obviously I don’t think you can blame 100% of what happened on bullying, a shooter has to take responsibility for his own actions on some level. But how much of what happened was really his fault? In a different time/place he could have been such a normal kid. In the immortal words of Glinda the Good, “Are people born wicked, or do they have wickedness thrust upon them?” After all, Peter had a father and a mother, as so many do.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Katy! Yes, you’ve just presented an excellent point there – “is Peter evil??”
      I think it’s a tough question to answer – as you said, I don’t think we can justify his action putting all the blame on bullying. As the prosecutor puts it, there are people who are traumatized by bullying yet never resort in violence. Despite what the psychiatrists in the book say, I don’t think Peter was 100% irrational hence he should be held responsible for the lives he had taken.
      Basically, I believe no one can be genuinely and inherently EVIL, it is our environments that makes us evil; the influences that their surroundings have. People, support system and such.
      I don’t think that answers your question, but I loved how thought-provoking this book is, making me wondering and THINK ‘who is to blame?’

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow! I’m so glad its your favorite yet! I still wonder if you’ll like Perfect Match. That one was hard to read, but I couldn’t put it down and the ending was seriously shocking. She is truly a talented author.

    I did like this one and might do a reread because it’s been so long. It’s amazing how much you can forget as time goes by. Wonderful review as usual and thanks for sharing! ❤ Happy reading! 😁

    Liked by 1 person

      1. It is emotional, but mainly it’s the events as far as what happens in the story with one of the characters that I think some people might have a difficult time with. You’ll have to let me know if you decide to read it. I actually might reread this one in the future. Take care, Noriko! ❤

        Liked by 1 person

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