Nineteen Minutes is the story of Peter Houghton who is 17 and has been the victim of bullying since his first day of school. He is now in high school with the same children who've tormented him all his life and he retreats into a world of video games and computer programming in an effort to become invisible. Then one day he walks into Sterling High with a knapsack full of guns, kills ten students and wounds many others. His childhood friend, Josie Cormier, is the daughter of the judge sitting on the case and is also the state’s best witness – except she can’t remember what happened in front of her own eyes. We also follow the story of Peter’s parents, Lacy and Lewis, as they examine their past to see what they might have said or done to compel their son to such extremes.
I enjoyed, if that is the right word, this book and found it very hard not to empathise with the character of Peter and the position of blame that his parents find themselves in. Which I suspect is the point. Incidents such as these do not happen in isolation and, although there was not one event that triggers this reaction from Peter, it's easy to see how a marginalised teenage boy could see this as a solution to his problem.
It's hard to believe how prolific Jodi Picoult is and that this is her twelfth book - although perhaps this is because she's only risen to huge popularity in the UK over the last few years so piles of her books seems to have appeared out of nowhere! They do tend to be formulaic in that she takes a controversial subject then takes you through the morally grey legal process of a trial but that is not necessarily a Bad Thing.
I've seen her mentioned on a few blogs as being an author to avoid at all costs which I think is more than a little unfair. You know what you are getting when you buy one of her books and she consistently delivers to that expectation. I've found some of her work, like this book, genuinely thought provoking and I can imagine that they can spark some pretty healthy debates if handled properly. I notice that over on her website there is a wealth of support material for schools using Nineteen Minutes as part of an anti-bullying carriculum and I'd imagine that there are not many mainstream books that you could find that tackle this difficult subject in such a head-on manner.
In summary... If you've read and enjoyed Jodi Picoult in the past then you will enjoy this one too. If you've not read her work before then this book, or My Sister's Keeper, would be a good place to start!