Thursday, May 31, 2007

Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult

Jodi Picoult is a goddess. Really. And I bet her editor is pretty darn good, too. This is her 14th novel, and she hasn't disappointed me yet. Released in March 2007, this DRAMATIC novel about a high school shooting happened a month before the Virginia Tech shooting.

The odd thing is that a few months ago I argued against putting Shooter by Myers on the 2008 Abe Lincoln Illinois H.S. Book Award list. And I think I could quote myself: "Not another book about a school shooting!"

But Nineteen Minutes is different. In typical Picoult fashion, she takes a Oprah-like subject and makes it interesting and fresh. She has teenagers in almost all her novels, which makes them easier reads for young adults. As a mother, I love Alex in the story. She is a darn good judge and tries to be a great single mother. But things still aren't quite right with her daughter Josie. In fact, things aren't right with any of the characters in the novel. And that's what makes it great. People aren't perfect. In school, you are either bullied or the bullier. There is no such thing as an innocent bystander. And I have been in the position of the teachers in the novel. What do you do? Punish the bulliers so they end up picking on the kid more later? Pull the bullied aside and tell them you understand? Teach everyone karate? Teach character education? It's tough to teach respect in high school. One of the two detentions I gave last year was to a student who called another student a "fag." I wasn't meant to hear it, but I did. And I blew up. But here's what I'd like to know. Did the kid I punish retaliate in any way? Should I ask? Does it matter? Is it enough that the bullied kid knows that I won't allow kids to call him names in the library?

Ugh. Tough topic for me. And this is why I love this book. And why I'm buying multiple copies for my book club to discuss next fall. And then the faculty book club will be next. This book deserves to be read a lot at Paris High School.

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