I absolutely love books that force me to look at situations in ways that I would normally never consider. Nineteen Minutes is definitely one of those books. The storyline is one we are all too familiar with. And because of that, we may have already made up our minds about what to believe and who to blame. I know I did. But after reading this book, I look at a lot of things differently.
Sterling is an ordinary New Hampshire town where nothing ever happens–until the day its complacency is shattered by an act of violence. Josie Cormier, the daughter of the judge sitting on the case, should be the state’s best witness, but she can’t remember what happened before her very own eyes–or can she? As the trial progresses, fault lines between the high school and the adult community begin to show–destroying the closest of friendships and families. Nineteen Minutes asks what it means to be different in our society, who has the right to judge someone else, and whether anyone is ever really who they seem to be.
After spending 13 years in the American public school system, I can honestly say that bullying was never an issue for me. While never popular, I always had a handful of close friends and many acquaintances. My high school experience was nothing like what they show in the movies. I didn’t attend house parties, I didn’t drink, I never once snuck out of my house, etc. But those things never really crossed my mind at the time. I was having my own kind of fun and that was ok with me.
Looking back, I can see that there were cliques – the popular kids, the jocks, the drama kids, the nerds, and those of us who didn’t fit into a box (the majority). This was even more evident in the cafeteria during lunchtime. Like attracted like. What I don’t remember is kids being picked on, pushed into lockers, punched in the face (except for an occasional fight in the hallway), or forced to do things they didn’t want to. After reading this book, I feel like I lived in a different world.
Jodi Picoult does an amazing job painting a picture of a small town where being different meant being judged. A town where if you didn’t blend in it would be made known. Basically, if you tried to create your own space, the rest of your life would be hell. I never thought I would feel sympathy for the main character, but by the end, I really wished things could’ve been different for him….and everyone else.
Like I said before, the plot is something we are all too familiar with. But how many of us have lived through the kind of pain that comes with not being accepted, not feeling loved, not feeling safe. Bullying is a very serious issue that affects 1 in every 6 kids. I honestly had no idea. And while I will never condone revenge, I do think that schools need to have very strict anti-bullying policies, kids need to be able to trust teachers and approach them with any issues, and something needs to be done before it’s too late.
Nineteen Minutes is one of those books that stays with you long after you finish reading. It’s heartbreaking, it’s emotional, it’s raw. But most importantly, it forces the reader to look at a devastating situation from a different perspective. And maybe even be part of the solution. A must read in my opinion.
Any must read book recommendations? I’m taking names!