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In Jodi Picoult’s novel 19 Minutes, she brings her readers on a roller coaster ride of emotion and gives psychological insight to all of her characters. Ms Picoult uses multiple flashbacks from past and present while switching between different characters. This provides wonderful detail into the inner mind of all characters and reveals personality. However, it is a little difficult to follow at first. This novel tackles many social issues including suicide, bullying, social barriers between kids and adults, along with many other aspects of teenage life. Her use of plot and dialogue slowly reveal and develop theme, moral, and overall tone to the novel. The only aspect I did not like is how the book concluded. She left many loose ends and that irked me. Taking all of the book into account, it would receive an eight out of ten.
Throughout 19 Minutes, readers will learn about what drove Peter to shoot up a school and look back on what others could have done to stop the problem. “Why” by Rascal Flatts relates very well to this book. “Why” was written about a boy that took his own life and people questioned why, even though he had always looked happy. Peter was always dumped on and bullied from his first days in kindergarten and he felt “It must’ve been in a place so dark you couldn’t feel the light”. His life was a living hell, he would be tortured at school and nobody would help him and school administrators did nothing. He would then come home to a house where he would have to live up to the expectations set by his older brother. He could not get away and felt useless and worthless. Peter seems to have thought the only way to make it stop was to kill them. However, he did not really want them dead. It was not the “way you meant to draw a crowd”. After all his suffering, he wanted out and it hit the breaking point. He lashed out and used violence to end his problems. In the end he failed his ultimate goal, ending his life.
Bullying is a major theme and point of emphasis in this book. IT drives the plot and shows how much it can hurt a person on the inside, as well as the outside. This theme also dwells on adults not doing their part in stopping bullying or other hazing. “Fitting In” is another important theme. Josie ditches Peter when she matures into a beautiful young lady and leaves for the popular crowd. It is not that she did not like Peter, she did not want to be bullied like Peter and was willing to lose him in order to save herself. “Safety” is an important idea as well as common thought. Nobody ever thinks that their child could be shot one day. A little town in Sterling, New Hampshire or even Huntley, Illinois seem to be perfectly safe places until something horrific happens. The idea of “safety” is challenged in 19 Minutes and shows we may never be totally safe. “Communication” is an important part of every person’s life. The relationships between Alex and Josie and Peter and Lacy show how communication can save a life or take one. Parental involvement in a child’s life are critical to their health and safety, as well as the safety of others, in Peter’s case. Finally, “Innocent until Proven Guilty” is a phrase often used in everyday life. However, when Peter is arrested, every citizen in Sterling believes that he is guilty and should automatically be sentenced to life. This phrase is challenged often and unfair because nobody but the perpetrator knows the whole story and whether there is a just cause. However, killing nine and wounding many others, is extremely difficult to justify.
I am very surprised to know that a child could be bullied at school, on the way to and from school, and outside of school, and nobody has the courage to stop it. School administrators had been notified of the incidents and did not do anything about it. Many emotions flood through my brain knowing that a child dreads going to school because he will be beaten, teased, and humiliated. Events like this, though fictional, are why schools, workplaces, and society has laws and rules against bullying and hazing. I was reminded how great my parents truly are. Both my mom and dad are supporting me at anything I do. It could be sports, school, or music, and they are still there. I felt as if Josie was feeling abandoned and wished she had somebody to talk to. It did remind me that our parents will truly do anything so their kids can have a great life and I am truly grateful. Finally, the central issue in this novel is bullying and harassment. The teenage years are stressful with all of the changes happening and our futures at the doorstep. Having a group of kids harass you about everything you do, making you contemplate suicide or murder is horrible and no child should deal with this. It reminded me that seemingly harmless teasing can escalate to somebody doubting themselves and their life. This novel gave me a new perspective on people who seem to be outcasts and that lending a helping hand can make all the difference in the world to them.
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