In true Jodi Picoult style, this book is bursting at the seams with highly charged emotions, moral grey areas and characters with a considered depth to their personalities. It is a gruesome tale, as one would expect with a school shooting, and the book is structured using the court trial of the culprit, Peter Houghton, after he commits his crime.
The characters are well developed, including the spectrum of different social groups amongst teenagers at school. The book demonstrates how prepared some are to fight their way to the top, and who they’re willing to sacrifice along the way. There is also the reality from Picoult that the all American cookie-cutter child sometimes harbours dark secrets, which is projected through Josie and Peter’s older brother.
The mourning parents and displays of panic and hysteria are well written, engaging the reader as they follow a situation that has rapidly spiralled out of control, and tracking the consequences that destroy the lives of so many people.
I think that ultimately, this book explores¬† what it is like to be different, and how a child becomes toxic after being bullied and ostracised. Nineteen minutes is a chilling read, and leaves the question hanging of who is left living with the guilt of a school shooting, because it doesn’t always rest on the shoulders of the culprit.