Picks and Pans Review: Nineteen Minutes
REVIEWED BY BOB MEADOWS
In her 14th novel, Picoult plays a risky game—a "What if?" with one of the nation's most painful tragedies. Centered around a Columbine-like school shooting, the book jumps between characters and time periods, making us care as much for the shooter, Peter Houghton, as for his victims. Peter, whose small stature and propensity for speaking "Martian" render him an outcast, is a target from day one: On his first bus ride to school, bullies toss his prized Superman lunchbox out the window. His parents try to help, but when his doting mom threatens punishment if he keeps backing down, Peter prepares to be grounded rather than take a stand against his tormentors. His only friend snubs him, and when he confesses his love for her, her new pals push him too far. After murdering 10 classmates in a 19-minute rampage, he offers a terse explanation: "They started it."
Nearly eight years after two students killed 13 people at Columbine High School, are readers ready for a fictional account? Those who are will find Nineteen Minutes a brilliantly told tale—one that dares to remind us that someone loved the killer too.