19 Minutes, written by Jodi Picoult, is a story about a devastating event that occurred in the small town of Sterling, New Hampshire. Sterling is much like most small towns, where everyone know each other and nothing exciting ever happens - until one fateful day when a shooting takes place at the local high school, shattering the lives of virtually the entire town. The shooter is arrested, and the story follows the progress of the trial, but also includes flashbacks to the past when life was simpler for the kids involved.
The tale is told from the perspective of many different characters - from the judge prosecuting the young man, her daughter, the shooter, the police detective who investigates the incident, and many others. 19 Minutes examines the ins and outs of the trial proceeding as well as the varying emotions involved with such a tragic event. The inner workings of the mind belonging to the shooter (who was the victim of bullying his entire life) are also explored.
There's a reason for the phrase "you can't judge a book by it's cover." The cover of this book left much to be desired, if I'm being completely honest. I don't even remember how I heard about this book, but I bought it, and it sat on my bookshelf waiting to be read while I devoured fast reads such as The Help, The Hunger Games and Water For Elephants. In fact, I actually put this book down to read the entire Hunger Games trilogy and did not complete it until months after originally opening it.
With that said, I ended up really enjoying this book. At first, because it's told in so many different voices, it was difficult to get into, but as I got further into it, it was harder to put down. The struggle between the two main characters, Peter & Josie, is absolutely intriguing - they were friends at a young age, and due to the pressure to be popular, Josie inherited a new group of friends in high school, leaving Peter behind to suffer the daily torture of his classmates.
The character interaction developed by Jodi Picoult in this novel pulled on my heartstrings, to say the least. I was immediately drawn to the multiple third person narrative aspect of 19 Minutes. Although I think it was choppy at times, she made it work. You could clearly identify each person's "part" in the book without needing subtitles above their sections.
The shooting happens literally within the first 25 pages of the book, which was a huge relief for me. I hate waiting for something exciting to take place, and the big event being in the beginning was a change of pace compared to books I usually read. The story develops through the chapters, and with each character, your opinions change. Each character had a distinguished personality, and the emotions they felt seeped through the pages. Because the story parallels the Columbine shootings, it was clear that Picoult did her research when channeling the devastation felt by the entire community.
To say this book was thought provoking would be an understatement. The text is raw, heartfelt, and sympathetic to everyone involved, including the family of the shooter. I would recommend it, if only for the fact of how it made me feel and think. The fact that it's something that could happen at any point in time to anyone you know makes it that much more believable.