Jodi Picoult’s Nineteen Minutes

Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult | LibraryThing

(Written on Monday, 14 January 2013)

Title and Author(s): Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult
Release Date: March 9, 2007
Publisher: Atria
ISBN: 0743496728 
Pages: 455
Source: Library

Reasons for Reading: I read My Sister’s Keeper several years ago. Later, I posted a review when I reread it before doing a book talk at a senior center. When Nineteen Minutes came out in 2007, I didn’t want to read about a school shooting. Yet, watching the continuous coverage of the Sandy Hook shootings, I realized the importance of understanding such situations. So, I requested the book via HCPL.

Summary: Sterling, New Hampshire is a sleepy little town where denizens settle so they can send their kids to good schools. Nothing of note really happens in Sterling until March 6, 2007. In nineteen minutes, bullied Sterling High School junior Peter Houghton hauls five guns into the high school and goes on a shooting spree. When Detective Patrick DuCharme apprehends Peter in the locker room, he finds jock Matt Royston dead but Royston’s girlfriend, Josie Cormier, stirring. Daughter of Madam Justice Alex Cormier, Josie recalls nothing. Picoult relates a tale of bullying, broken relationships, and a reeling town.

One Thing I Learned from reading Jodi Picoult’s Nineteen Minutes: Battered person syndrome is a physical and psychological condition that is classified as ICD-9 code 995.81.

What I Liked:  I liked that Picoult began with the date of March 6, 2007. This gave me an idea of the setting and attitudes to expect. Also, she fed into my preference of having a date stamp.

Also, I appreciate that Picoult deals with relevant events and offers likely reasons for characters’ motives. On the whole, this novel has believable, sympathetic characters.

While I’ve yet to read Change of Heart, The Pact, or Salem Falls, I liked that Picoult brought back characters Patrick Ducharme, Jordan McAfee, and Selena McAfee. This gives me hope that I might see friendly faces if I pick up other books by her.

What I Disliked: I did appreciate the time stamp of March 6, 2007. However, Picoult would toggle between the big event and chapters with titles along the lines of “Seventeen Years Earlier.” Couldn’t she have added “1990” to this?

Then, there was the sense that this book’s plot was “straight from the headlines.” I’d avoided this book dealing with school shootings for a long time, not wanting to be reminded of Columbine High School Massacre around the time Nineteen Minutes hit the bookshelves.

Additionally, I remember reading My Sister’s Keeper and found reading Nineteen Minutes like watching any M. Night Shyamalan movie after I’d seen The Sixth Sense. Thus, I tended to smell a rat early in the narrative. I won’t spoil the end but I wanted to know more about how certain characters were doing. Maybe I’ll see them in another Picoult work.

Three Out of Five Pearls

Song: Foster The People – Pumped Up Kicks – YouTube

Setting :  Sterling New Hampshire

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Siobhan Vivian’s The List

The List by Siobhan Vivian | LibraryThing

Vivian, S. (2012). The list. New York: PUSH. 9780545169172

Reasons for Reading: When perusing other bloggers’ Top Ten Tuesday lists, I stumbled upon Siobhan Vivian’s The List. The conflict described appealed to me so much that I sought the title at my library. When I found the book online, I requested in via HCPL.

Summary: Every year, some anonymous soul posts The List all over Mount Washington High during Homecoming Week. The List shares the names of eight girls, two from each grade – the prettiest and the ugliest. As the summary inside the book says:

ABBY’S joy at being named to the list is clouded by her sister’s resentment.

DANIELLE worries about how her boyfriend will take the news.

LAUREN is a homeschooled girl blindsided by her instant popularity.

CANDACE isn’t ugly, not even close, so it must be a mistake.

BRIDGET knows her summer transformation is nothing to celebrate.

SARAH has always rebelled against traditional standards of beauty, and she decides to take her mutiny to the next level.

And MARGO and JENNIFER, ex-best friends who haven’t spoken in years, are forced to confront why their relationship ended.

These eight girls struggle throughout the book, confronting their social stature as defined in print in eight different ways. While written in third person, the reader becomes privy to the thoughts of these eight girls.

What I Liked: The mystery of who was posting The List compelled me to read this so quickly I nearly suffered paper cuts. While I figured out the culprit well before I hit the back cover, I wanted to know the motives. Author Vivian formed intriguing characters and dealt with true issues such as: popularity, bullying, eating disorders, and self-esteem. I cared about some of these girls, especially Lauren and Danielle.

What I Disliked: The ending (which will remain unspoiled by this reviewer) left me dissatisfied. I wondered if this was the birth of the series as there were some thread left looser than I would’ve desired. Also, eight different characters was at least four too many characters in my opinion. The author could’ve pleased me by focusing on the story of ex-best friends Margo and Jennifer. Lastly, I sure didn’t like most of the parents featured in this book. Dishonorable mention goes to Abby’s parents, Lauren’s mother, and Candace’s mother.

Three Out of Five Pearls

Song: Maroon 5 – She Will Be Loved – YouTube

Setting: United States

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Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky | LibraryThing

Chbosky, S. (1999). The perks of being a wallflower. New York: Pocket Books. 9780671027346

Reasons for Reading : The first time I heard about The Perks of Being a Wallflower was in library school. Stephen Chbosky’s work was banned by the Library Patrons of Texas. I hadn’t thought much about it until I saw that a movie based on the book would come out later in 2012. Thus, I requested and checked out the book from HCPL.

Summary : Assuming the alias “Charlie,” a troubled high school freshman writes letters to an unnamed friend, starting in the 1991. Through these rather intimate letters, Charlie describes his family, his teacher Bill who assigns extra essays to write, his senior friends, Patrick and Sam[antha], and his late Aunt Helen.

What I Liked : Nothing was sugarcoated in this book. Actually, it was pretty raw stuff. The characters were original and realistic.

What I Disliked : Maybe it was necessary for Chbosky to set this in the early 1990s. Yet, it would’ve appealed more if it had been set around the time it was published – 1999. Also, I somber read and not for those looking for some gentle literature.

Three Out of Five Pearls

Song: The Smiths – Asleep – YouTube

Setting : Pittsburgh, PA

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Stephen King’s The Dead Zone

Read on the couch while watching TV

King, S. (1979). The dead zone. New York: Viking Press. 9780670260775

While reading Stephen King’s memoir On Writing, I realized The Dead Zone he wrote was the same one that inspired the recent TV show starring Anthony Michael Hall. I requested one of the two copies in the system and soon read the book from cover to cover.

Nice guy John Smith is left comatose in October, 1970 by a severe car accident. He comes out of a five year coma with many dead zones in his brain but an uncanny ability to see past and present just by touching a person. When he shakes the hand of a rising politician, he sees doom. What is John Smith to do?

King follows Johnny Smith and a number of other characters through this crazy ride of a story. Previously, I’d read Carrie

and The Green Mile by King. I definitely preferred The Dead Zone to Carrie. Not only was it a riveting story, The Dead Zone also was a capsule which predated me. I found the views on Vietnam, Watergate, and 1970s politics fascinating.

King created clear portraits of his characters. His depictions of bad guys such as Greg Stillson were frightening! Still, Johnny was an authentic hero.

I saw a few episodes of the series which was “based on characters” from the novel. I liked it, too, but wished they hadn’t messed so much with Johnny’s parents, Herb and Vera Smith. C’est la vie!

Three and a Half Out of Five Pearls

Places: Maine, New Hampshire, the United States

Word Bank:

  1. Psychic
  2. Psychometry

For more on Stephen King’s The Dead Zone, check out the following links:

Scary Carrie – Carrie; a novel of a girl with a frightening power by Stephen King

Goodreads | Carrie by Stephen King

King, S. (1974). Carrie; a novel of a girl with a frightening power. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday. 9780385086950

Stephen King’s Carrie; a novel of a girl with a frightening power relates the story of Carrie White, a telekinetic (the ability to move things remotely with only the mind) teenage girl, who has been pushed too far by her peers and her mother’s cruel treatment of her. The story is related through third person narrative as well as multiple reports and testimonies.

Opening with a news report of how rocks fell from the sky onto the house where three year old Carrie and her beyond fundamentalist mother, Margaret White, lived, the reader sees Carrie’s first telekinetic act. Later on in the novel, the reader is told of how Margaret would punish Carrie by shoving her in a closet for long periods of time and subject her to praying for forgiveness.

Then, the story slips into third person narrative and brings the reader to a teenaged Carrie showering after gym class with the other girls. Carrie has long been made to endure the harassment of the other students for the odd way her fanatical mother has reared her and for being beyond awkward. Ringleader and mean girl Chris Hargensen instigates group terrorization of Carrie in the locker room. Even the nice, pretty Sue Snell gets in on the act. Carrie becomes so upset she breaks the locker room light bulb, showing another instance of her telekinetic ability.

Being caught by their coach, Miss Desjardines, these girls are punished for their mistreatment. Chris balks and is further punished by not being able to attend the Spring Ball/ Prom. Sue feels guilty for her part and convinces her popular boyfriend, Tommy Ross, to take Carrie to the prom. When Carrie accepts Tommy’s invitation, she still wonders what joke her peers will pull on her. Defying her mother, she attends the prom. All is well for Carrie until the inevitable proves to be the last straw and the somewhat dormant power within Carrie takes over the rest of the night and the town.

Carrie; a novel of a girl with a frightening power is a story that produces fear in the reader. The reader asks, “How many people have hurt Carrie?” and “What is Carrie going to do to them?” In this case, Carrie and her telekinetic ability are the monster of the story. She is very human and has been hurt too many times. She has a paranormal ability of telekinesis and she is tired of taking people’s garbage. In essence, she is a woman scorned by her peers. Yet, Carrie is absolutely sympathetic. She has been pushed over the edge not only by her mean peers but by her insane mother. Perhaps this is fantastical for readers who have been at the wrong end of a cruel joke.

Also, with the reports and testimonies and the narrative entwined, the reader knows some sort big action will take place and it will be very bad. Early in the novel, it is mentioned that only a few people survived and that serious investigations were taking place after the climatic event.

The Devil is referred to often by Carrie’s mother, Margaret, as The Black Man. According to Margaret, Carrie’s frightening power comes from The Black Man. While Margaret won the battle with The Black Man, Carrie lost because she was telekinetic and attending the Prom in a dress showing off too much of her body. This novel definitely contains violence, gore, sex, and foul language. Ultimately, it presents the dark underbelly of human behavior. The reader not only sees this in Carrie but all of those around her.

I chose Carrie; a novel of a girl with a frightening power for a number of reasons. Stephen King is referred to as the King of Horror and I thought I should read something by him other than The Green Mile. Additionally, I had tried to read this book as a high school senior but I did not manage to finish it at the time. Another reason was that I remembered seeing the movie and feeling as though Carrie was justified in what she did. I even saw this as a morality play or a cautionary tale (as many horror stories and urban myths are) as to why one should not mistreat peers in high school.

While I enjoyed the narrative parts of the book and I especially appreciated Sue Snell’s first person narration in other sections, I did not like research and investigative reports. In this respect, I prefer the movie. I felt like I was watching a soap opera when it had been interrupted by a breaking news bulletin on one of the soap opera character’s reasons for being an alcoholic. I had to keep myself from skipping these parts in favor of the narrative. In addition, I was distracted by what I found to be King’s sarcastic tone throughout the book. A recurring thought for me was that “While I am reading this book, Stephen King is laughing all the way to the bank.” Nonetheless, I do see that King is a great writer in that he evokes fear and loathing so well. I now question whether Carrie was justified in what she did.

After warning patrons about the research reports (only because they irritated me) and the sex and violence, I would recommend Carrie; a novel of a girl with a frightening power to fans of horror and perhaps fantasy. To me, it seemed like a fantasy for anyone who has been slightly mistreated at school or felt that his/her parents were unfair to him/her. That could be a whole lot of people.

Two Out of Five Pearls