Saturday, November 17, 2007

Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult

Title: Nineteen Minutes
Author: Jodi Picoult
ISBN: 9781741750720
Publisher: Allen & Unwin/2007
Pages: 455

Nineteen Minutes is set in a small town where a horrific shootout takes place in the high school. It takes only nineteen minutes to change the whole scenario of that place. Life is never the same again for the inhabitants of Sterling. In that shootout, there are ten deaths and nineteen seriously injured.

Peter Houghton is the boy who shot at all those people in his school and is represented by the lawyer, Jordan McAfee. Patrick Ducharme, the detective tries to unravel the reasons behind the shootout but finds a dead end with Josie, who was at the shootout but was not shot at. She has that part blocked out of her mind and does not remember anything. Her boy friend, Matt Royston was also one of those killed. Her mother is the Judge who is assigned the case but is recused afterwards.

Jordan as well as Peter’s parents are the most hated persons in that town as they are seen to be siding with Peter. Lacy and Lewis are his parents and have no choice other than to love him and Jordan is his lawyer who has to believe in him. Slowly we see disintegration of relationships and also the reasons behind Peter’s actions. Nevertheless, he goes overboard. Josie has her reasons to break off her friendship with him, although they had been friends since kindergarten.

The unanswered questions of---Why is being different taken as a weakness? Why acceptance by peers is so very important? Why cannot some children cope better? Why bullying is persistent? Why do elders---teachers as well as parents—turn a blind eye when they should protect the weaker ones? What takes to tilt the balance? How much one can bear until he/she breaks?
How a loner like Peter turns out to be a killer? Initially, the accused was the victim. Most of his life, he had been bullied even when he tried to be invisible. Does this justify what he did? Does anything?

Picoult has taken all those into account and more. She has questions for the legal system, education system and students. Her questions hit hard. They make us sit back and think. She shows us all the sides. There are no blacks or whites but greys, which are more prevalent. Another captivating novel by Jodi Picoult, which speaks out about the prevalent system and its loopholes.