True to form, Jodi Picoult takes a timely topic that most would rather shove into the dark recesses of their minds like a horrifying nightmare and forces readers to instead face it head-on, often not quite in the way they expect. In Nineteen Minutes, readers see the horrifying school shooting at the heart of the novel from every possible perspective: the police and lawyers, the survivors and their families, and even the shooter and his parents – the latter being perspectives all too frequently overlooked. Picoult brilliantly crafts this tale to show the intricate series of events that can lead someone to commit such an unfathomable act. Readers will be surprised to find themselves pitying Peter, along with the other victims of his crime. While Picoult in no way endorses his actions, she does masterfully give shape and shade to his mind and motives, rather than taking the traditional route of black and white, villain and hero, criminal and victim. Through an interwoven blend of childhood flashbacks, present glimpses, and a timeline of the final hours leading up to Peter’s nineteen minute rampage of terror through Sterling High, Picoult explores the complex psychologies of her characters, and the environment capable of fostering an individual capable of so much violence, making discoveries that will probably surprise most readers. Nineteen Minutes is a heart-pounding and gut-wrenching tale that is hard to hear and perhaps even harder to tell, but it is one that should be heard. The final courtroom scene is worthy of Atticus Finch and the ultimate astonishing plot twist will leave readers reeling. Picoult once again succeeds in crafting a thought-provoking and belief-challenging narrative that readers will still be contemplating months after they’ve turned the final page.
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