Nineteen Minutes (Review)


Nineteen Minutes
Jodi Picoult
464 pp.

Book Review by Molly Lundquist
September 2008

I have to admit, I was a bit disappointed with Picoult's book, but it contained enough that's very good to recommend it as a LitPick.

Part of what's disappointing is the gimmicky cliff-hangers. Picoult is too good a writer to fall back on chintzy tricks—though I admit she kept me turning pages till 3 a.m.

What's admirable about Nineteen Minutes is the daring risk Picoult took with her subject matter—school shootings. Presented from shifting points of view, she achieves the near impossible—building sympathy and understanding for the young shooter and his family.

The real reason I hope book clubs will select this work is because of the rich discussions it should generate—about family and society. Picoult presents us with a mother lode of ideas, moments, and observations that clubs can take off on. Here are just a few that struck me:

  • How culpable are good parents when their kids do bad things?
  • Who creates the toxic teen culture in which popular kids dominate and taunt others? Who and where are responsible adults who can protect the underdogs. Or can they?
  • A character comes to believe that life is a series of "what ifs," in which the margin between safety and disaster is frighteningly narrow. Interesting to contemplate—can we control our own destiny? How much of it?

There's much more to discuss about Picoult's book; I've barely scratched the surface. But it's a book that will yield terrific conversations.

See our Reading Guide for Nineteen Minutes.

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