by Jodi Picoult
Jodi Picoult chooses her topics well. Her timing, however, is just luck: Nineteen Minutes came out in hardback a few days after the Virginia Tech shootings in the US, where Cho Seung-hui killed 32 people before committing suicide. Picoult's 14th novel, also about a school massacre, is the story of a student who retaliates against those who have made his life hell. They include the students who have bullied him and the teachers who did nothing about it. In going for the obvious, Picoult seems to offer readers little new. In addition to selecting a familiar subject, she casts the usual suspects in the main roles: the jock and his pretty girlfriend, and the weirdo who fancies the girl. There is also the career-orientated single mother with a strained relationship with her teenage daughter, and the pleasant, normal parents of the boy who goes berserk. Where Picoult excels, however, is in turning the ordinary into something no one expects. In 19 minutes, she writes, 'you can mow the front lawn'. It's also the length of time it takes to exact revenge. The strength of Picoult's narrative lies in the different voices she crafts to give different perspectives on the tragedy. Her research into Columbine and related interviews obviously helped.