BKMT READING GUIDES



 
Insightful,
Dramatic,
Interesting

16 reviews

Nineteen Minutes: A novel
by Jodi Picoult

Published: 2013-01-22
Mass Market Paperback : 656 pages
81 members reading this now
116 clubs reading this now
88 members have read this book
Recommended to book clubs by 12 of 16 members
The bestselling author of My Sister’s Keeper and The Tenth Circle, Jodi Picoult pens her most riveting book yet, with a startling and poignant story about the devastating aftermath of a small-town tragedy.

Sterling is an ordinary New Hampshire town where nothing ever happens—until the ...
No other editions available.
Add to Club Selections
Add to Possible Club Selections
Add to My Personal Queue
Jump to

Introduction

The bestselling author of My Sister’s Keeper and The Tenth Circle, Jodi Picoult pens her most riveting book yet, with a startling and poignant story about the devastating aftermath of a small-town tragedy.

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 teenage 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.

Editorial Review

Best known for tackling controversial issues through richly told fictional accounts, Jodi Picoult's 14th novel, Nineteen Minutes, deals with the truth and consequences of a smalltown high-school shooting. Set in Sterling, New Hampshire, Picoult offers reads a glimpse of what would cause a 17-year-old to wake up one day, load his backpack with four guns, and kill nine students and one teacher in the span of nineteen minutes. As with any Picoult novel, the answers are never black and white, and it is her exceptional ability to blur the lines between right and wrong that make this author such a captivating storyteller.

On Peter Houghton's first day of kindergarten, he watched helplessly as an older boy ripped his lunch box out of his hands and threw it out the window. From that day on, his life was a series of humiliations, from having his pants pulled down in the cafeteria, to being called a freak at every turn. But can endless bullying justify murder? As Picoult attempts to answer this question, she shows us all sides of the equation, from the ruthless jock who loses his ability to speak after being shot in the head, to the mother who both blames and pities herself for producing what most would call a monster. Surrounding Peter's story is that of Josie Cormier, a former friend whose acceptance into the popular crowd hangs on a string that makes it impossible for her to reconcile her beliefs with her actions.

At times, Nineteen Minutes can seem tediously stereotypical-- jocks versus nerds, parent versus child, teacher versus student. Part of Picoult's gift is showing us the subtleties of these common dynamics, and the startling effects they often have on the moral landscape. As Peter's mother says at the end of this spellbinding novel, "Everyone would remember Peter for nineteen minutes of his life, but what about the other nine million?" --Gisele Toueg

Excerpt

No Excerpt Currently Available

Discussion Questions

Questions and Topics for Discussion from the Publisher:

1. Alex and Lacy's friendship comes to an end when they discover Peter and Josie playing with guns in the Houghton house. Why does Alex decide that it's in Josie's best interest to keep her away from Peter? What significance is there to the fact that Alex is the first one to prevent Josie from being friends with Peter?

2. Alex often has trouble separating her roles as a judge and a mother. How does this affect her relationship with Josie? Discuss whether or not Alex's job is more important to her than being a mother.

3. A theme throughout the novel is the idea of masks and personas and pretending to be someone you're not. To which characters does this apply, and why?

4. At one point defense attorney Jordan McAfee refers to himself as a "spin doctor," and he believes that at the end of Peter's trial he "will be either reviled or canonized" (250). What is your view of Jordan? As you were reading the book, did you find it difficult to remain objective about the judicial system's standing that every defendant (no matter how heinous his or her crime) has the right to a fair trial?

5. Peter was a victim of bullying for twelve years at the hands of certain classmates, many of whom repeatedly tormented him. But he also shot and killed students he had never met or who had never done anything wrong to him. What empathy, if any, did you have for Peter both before and after the shooting?

6. Josie and Peter were friends until the sixth grade. Is it understandable that Josie decided not to hang out with Peter in favor of the popular crowd? Why or why not? How accurate and believable did you find the author's depiction of high school peer pressure and the quest for popularity? Do you believe, as Picoult suggests, that even the popular kids are afraid that their own friends will turn on them?

7. Josie admits she often witnessed Matt's cruelty toward other students. Why then does it come as such a surprise to Josie when Matt abuses her verbally and physically? How much did you empathize with Josie?

8. Regarding Lacy, Patrick notes that "in a different way, this woman was a victim of her son's actions, too" (53). How much responsibility do Lewis and Lacy bear for Peter's actions? How about Lewis in particular, who taught his son how to handle guns and hunt?

9. At one point during Peter's bullying, Lacy is encouraged by an elementary school teacher to force Peter to stand up for himself. She threatens to cancel his play dates with Josie if he doesn't fight back. How did you feel, when you read that scene? Do you blame Lacy for Peter's future actions because of it? Do you agree or disagree with the idea that it a parent's job to teach a child the skills necessary to defend himself?

10. Discuss the novel's structure. In what ways do the alternating narratives between past and present enhance the story? How do the scenes in the past give you further insight into the characters and their actions, particularly Peter and Josie?

11. When Patrick arrives at Sterling High after the shooting, "his entire body began to shake, knowing that for so many students and parents and citizens today, he had once again been too late" (24). Why does Patrick blame himself for not preventing an incident he had no way of knowing was going to happen?

12. Dr. King, an expert witness for the defense, states that Peter was suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as a result of chronic victimization. "But a big part of it, too," he adds, "is the society that created both Peter and those bullies" (409). What reasons does Dr. King give to support his assertion that society is partly to blame for Peter's actions as well as those of the bullies? Do you agree with this? Why or why not?

12. Why does Josie choose to shoot Matt instead of shooting Peter? Why does Peter remain silent about Josie's role in the shooting? In the end, has justice been satisfactorily dealt to Peter and to Josie?

13. Discuss the very ending of the novel, which concludes on the one-year anniversary of the Sterling High shooting. Why do you suppose the author chose to leave readers with an image of Patrick and Alex, who is pregnant? In what way does the final image of the book predict the future?

14. Shootings have occurred at a number of high schools across the country over the last several years. Did Nineteen Minutes make you think about these incidents in a more immediate way than reading about them in the newspaper or seeing coverage on television? How so? In what ways did the novel affect your opinion of the parties generally involved in school shootings -- perpetrators, victims, fellow students, teachers, parents, attorneys, and law enforcement officials?

15. What do you think the author is proposing as the root of the problem of school violence? What have you heard, in the media and in political forums, as solutions? Do you think they will work? Why or why not?

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

No notes at this time.

Book Club Recommendations

Member Reviews

Overall rating:
 
 
by jmanley (see profile) 09/20/17

 
by Tiffanypridmore (see profile) 05/12/15

 
  "Worth the Read "by ThePageTurners (see profile) 06/12/13

Jodi Picoult is an excellent storyteller.

 
  "Nineteen Minutes"by kdangle17 (see profile) 09/22/12

 
  "Amazing"by ericalyn (see profile) 07/18/12

Very interesting to see multiple perspectives from all of the characters in the book and brilliantly crafted how the author can jump around in the story to before, during, and after the incident. After... (read more)

 
  "Emotionally charged and thought provoking"by bethbub (see profile) 06/29/12

Our members were impressed with Picoult's handling of a very horrifying and emotional topic. We empathized with, and in some cases criticized, the motivations of the author's highly developed main characters.... (read more)

 
  "Not a hit at book club"by LDober (see profile) 05/23/12

Less than 1/2 the club finished it. Afterward, we made our first book club rule....NO books about kids shooting up schools!

 
  "Nineteen Minutes"by vtreader (see profile) 07/21/11

I enjoyed this book as I've enjoyed the other Jodi Picoult books I've read. It was a fast read that gave you a lot to think about. The subject matter was very dark and you couldn't help but think about... (read more)

 
  "I'm done reading this author - too predictable"by valeriehall (see profile) 06/21/11

While this is better than what she has put out lately, I would suggest you read an earlier book of Picoult's - they were either better when she first started writing or they are all the same, so pick one... (read more)

 
  "Really Good"by clymifitried (see profile) 06/20/11

I like all of Jodi Picoult's books and this one didn't disappoint. Although a little predictable it almost gives you an insight to kids today and why there may be so many school shootings. There are many... (read more)

Rate this book
MEMBER LOGIN
Remember me
BECOME A MEMBER it's free

Join the leading website for book clubs with over 35,000 clubs and 20,000 reading guides.

SEARCH OUR READING GUIDES Search
Search




FEATURED EVENTS
PAST AUTHOR CHATS
JOIN OUR MAILING LIST

Get free weekly updates on top club picks, book giveaways, author events and more
Please wait...