Thursday, July 23, 2009
Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult
Last night I finished the book Nineteen Minutes. It took me nearly two days to read the book because I wanted to take my time with it and wrap my head around the story. The book is about a high school kid, Peter, who has been bullied his entire life and who one day wakes up and decides to take matter into his own hands: kill the bullies. The format of the book consists of chapters which jump back and forth between years/months/days prior to the shooting and months, days following the shooting. We learn about several characters, each of who have been severely affected by the horrific events of that day and all of who have some sort of connection with the shooter, Peter. Through these characters we learn about their lives and we learn about Peter. We find out that Peter was bullied by his school mates, we learn that he was struggling to discover his sexuality, we learn that he loved one of his classmates, we learn about the humiliation he experienced on a daily basis (getting shoved into his locker, being pantsed in the cafeteria, getting called names and beat up), we find out Peter had a passion for computers/computer games and we learn how scared and alone Peter felt growing up. Of course, we learn that Peter was not the only kid to be bullied at school, and so we struggle with "why" - why did he choose to kill his classmates, why did he want to die, why did he feel as if this was his only answer to his problems, why could he not talk to his mother or father, why? We also wonder, why did these kids choose to humiliate Peter every day (more so than any other kid they picked on), why did the school administrators standby and allow this type of bullying behavior to persist, what could the parents have done differently to help their son Peter? How could they not have noticed that he was unhappy or that he was hoarding weapons in his room? The book shows us how his parents felt towards Peter and themselves before and after the shooting. We read about them questiong their roles as parents and whether they could have done more to prevent Peter's actions. We read about his old childhood friend Josie and how she used to stick up for Peter and how she loved spending time with him. But then we learn that Josie no longer wanted to only have one friend and how she wanted to belong to the "in" crowd at school and so she chose to stop talking to Peter. We read about pain, loss, love, death and unhappiness and are left with so many questions. This book is relevant in today's society because of the fact that these types of events have occurred at our schools and because bullying has become national news and a part of our headlines. I think this book is a great read because it opens our minds about all of the people affected by such an event and also because it inspires dialogue about an issue within our schools that needs to be addressed today. We need to remember that words can and do hurt more than sticks and stones.