Monday, December 3, 2007
Sometime last year "My Sisters Keeper" by Jodi Picoult was THE book to read. I joined the masses, read it it- and loved it. I've read a few more of her books that ranked high for me but none which came close to the love I felt for "My Sisters Keeper"- until now.
Ninteen Minutes is the story of a school shooting. In keeping in traditional Picoult fashion, the story jumps narrators and time. In many books I find this a distracting quality, but in this one, it makes sense and leads the reader to the conclusion necessary to end the book satisfied.
Picoult expertly tells the tale of a teenager named Peter- who within the first pages of the book goes on a shooting rampage in his school killing students and a teacher. You naturally despise him, but as the story continues- you learn his history, the constant bullying straight from kindergarten until highschool and the you begin to wonder if endless years of bullying and torment can ever justify a murder, and if they can't- what can they justify?
Though Peters story could be it's own book, the author also weaves in the story of Josie- Peter's first and only friend in kindergarten who grows up to join the 'popular crowd'. How she deals with popularity, with Peter, with the pressures of watching someone get bullied and doing nothing is as interesting as Peters own tale. Also present are Josie's mother- who is a judge assigned to the case, and Peter's mother- a woman dealing with the realization her son has done something that she cannot help him undo.
I enjoyed this book on many levels. I appreciate a writer who is able to combine a controversial issue in a way that lets the reader see ALL sides of an argument without feeling like they are getting a one-sided account. As a teacher I adored it, I think any book that can raise awareness about school bullying is important and the way that it's done in this book- without apologizes or restraint makes me thankful that I was never in a position that Peter faced. Also, as a former student it appealed to me. The choices that Josie has to make- to preserve herself in a environment ripe for bullying, while still never succumbing to the bullying that others around her participate in- is one that I never really thought about. How guilty is someone who watches and does nothing?