Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I am rating this a 3, but I have to say that I was so annoyed with the ending that I almost wanted to rate this a 1. I usually stay away from anything labeled as "chick lit" and unfortunately, much of this book was exactly what I automatically mentally think about when I hear the words "chick lit". It took a perfectly good plot and then ruined it with unnecessary sub-plots and an over the top, soap opera worthy ending that was beyond absurd. Throughout this incredibly long 21 hour audio, I thought several times that this should have been two separate stories, one revolving around Peter and the school shooting, and to a lesser extent, Josie. And another story entirely about the Judge and her issues. It was just too much to put all of them together. As a reader of fantasy, I think that I can suspend disbelief and give the benefit of the doubt possibly even more than some other readers, but the coincidences in Nineteen Minutes pushed far beyond my bounds of believability and into the realms of absurd and by the end I no longer even cared about these characters.
I will say that this book did spark an entertaining debate between myself and my best friend about my apparent strong opinions concerning parental responsibility and culpability for their children's actions in extreme incidents like a school shooting. I didn't agree with much of the book's stance that a perfectly good parent can raise a school shooter, although I didn't see Peter's parents in the book as being particularly good parents. And regardless how well meaning a parent is, if your kid takes a duffel bag full of weapons to school and starts shooting people, you fucked up. Period. And in my opinion, you should be held criminally responsible for that. One of the things I enjoyed about Nineteen Minutes is that it did generate that gut response from me and cause me to examine how strongly I feel about those issues. This is why I cannot rate it lower than a 3 even though there were so many things I didn't like about the length, unnecessary sub-plots, lack of subtlety, etc. Even despite all of this, the book kept me engaged right up until that ridiculous ending.
Ultimately, I wouldn't recommend Nineteen Minutes, I'm sure there has to be a better, less over-dramatized book with this subject matter. I feel like the topic of school shooting is sufficiently dramatic and emotional without needing to add more to it. It ended up feeling forced, fake, and was in the end, disappointing.
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