by Caroline Donahue
Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult is an amazing realistic fiction, mystery, thriller, and exciting read. The book does not only take place in the present, but also has constant flashbacks to the past, giving the reader a chance to piece the puzzle together. One of the main characters, Josie Cormier, is a high school student at Sterling High. As a child, her best friend is Peter Houghton. However as the two grow up Josie begins to realize that Peter is not a part of the popular kids at school. Josie starts ditching Peter and even joins in on making fun of him during the school day. Peter is pushed over the edge once he reaches high school and one day shows up to school ready to give major payback to his bullies.
During the build up to Peter’s payback, the novel gives insight into Peter’s life as a child. It follows his parents, Lacy and Lewis Houghton. The couple seems loving and normal to the reader. It is because the family of Peter seems to normal and relatable, that it comes as such a shock that he is capable of committing such terrible acts. However, this causes the reader to think more carefully about their loved ones and those around them. Are the people around you secretly planning a terrible thing? It’s a question one constantly asks themselves after reading this book. Similarly, a major theme of how one treats those around themselves is prevalent. Peter faces severe bullying throughout the novel that is horrible to read about. It is this bullying that causes his anger and leads to his actions. Are you unknowingly or knowingly hurting those around you?
It is Peter's bullying stories that cause the reader to feel for Peter, even after what he does. Also, the reader feels for the parents of Peter. Normally when tragedy strikes and it is someone’s fault, one judges them and their upbringing harshly. However, in this novel one sees the other side and gains insight from it. Because the reader knows what awful things Peter endures, and how nice his parents are, the reader can sympathize with the family. Being able to sympathize with someone who has committed a horrible act is hard to do, but through Picoult’s Nineteen Minutes one finds his or herself doing it. This novel gives the other side of the story, while incorporating mystery, thriller and sadness all into one.