BLURB: “As a midwife, Lacy Houghton brings lives into the world. She did not expect her son to take them away. But that’s what he did one March morning, when he walked into his high school with guns instead of books and killed ten people. Along with the rest of the shocked and grief-stricken town, Lacy is left wondering when her shy 17-year-old boy turned into a monster. And was it her fault? In the aftermath of the shooting, Lacy searches the past for clues and begins to realise that despite, or perhaps because of, her every effort, she never really knew her son at all…”
REVIEW: This book came highly recommended to me by a friend, and I was eager to try it as the only previous work of Picoult’s that I had read – ‘My Sister’s Keeper’ – was one I recalled to be a gripping, moving and tender novel that stayed with me long after I had turned the final page. This novel had much the same effect on me, but in a very different sense. ‘Nineteen Minutes’ tells the story of a teenager named Peter Houghton, who is bullied and taunted mercilessly throughout his school life – until, one day, he finally cracks and decides to get revenge on those who caused him such pain and misery. The first hundred pages of this novel deal mainly with this horrific event, with detail that will both leave you hooked and make your stomach turn, heart pounding with fear for all of these innocent victims. This section of the novel also introduces Alex Cormier and her daughter Josie – once friends with Peter and his mother, the two women had a falling out that left the friendship of their two children destroyed, worsened once Josie abandoned Peter to join the popular crowd at Sterling High. The book cleverly flashes between the events leading up to the shooting and the ripple effect it has on the community afterwards, making for some truly heartbreaking scenes that will stay with the reader forever. What sticks with the reader most, however, is how this novel blurs the lines between right and wrong – how it makes us question our moral values and our status in society. Because, I feel, it would almost impossible not to feel some level of sympathy for Peter, even once we learn the true extent of his crimes. It is even more difficult to hate this compelling protagonist if the reader themselves was bullied and therefore identifies with him on some, however minor, level. Although barely anyone who was bullied would ever think of acting in the same manner as Peter, it does make it easier for us to empathise with him and understand his actions. This is shocking in itself, and makes the reader feel somewhat uncomfortable – we do not want to identify and sympathise with a murderer, but how can we possibly help it once we learn the extent of his suffering at the hands of bullies like Josie’s own boyfriend, Matt? This conflict remains throughout the book and is one I have been considering ever since I put the book down around six hours ago and simply sat there crying for a while, taking it all in. This book is undoubtedly one of the best works I have ever read, taking on a very real and topical issue and turning it into something that we, as the reading public, can just about begin to understand. I would highly recommend this book, not only for its dealings with sensitive themes but also for the lessons it teaches and for the brilliant page-turning nature of it. I have a feeling that the emotions I felt whilst reading this novel will stay with me for some time to come.