Book Report: Nineteen Minutes Essay
I read the book Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult. The story begins in a small town in Sterling, New Hampshire. At the high school, you read about a routine day of students in classes. As a student runs out of class to leave for an orthodontist appointment a loud bang goes off in the parking lot, which turns out to be a bomb set off in Matt’s car. The students are confused by the noise and gun shots are fired. Patrick, the only detective on the Sterling police force (which is just stupid to have only one), hears on his radio about the shooting at Sterling High School.
Patrick sees several students on the floor, surrounded in blood. The boy is dead and has a gunshot in his head while his girlfriend, Josie wakes up and cant remember what happened. Throughout the book, the time goes back and forth between events before and after the shooting. In the past, we learn that Peter (the shooter) and Josie were once the best of friends, but Peter was often the target of severe bullying. The bullying continues all throughout his childhood with often Josie sticking up for him. As they got older, they drifted apart and Josie became part of the popular crowd.
Peter was even an outcast at home; he had an older brother named Joey and Peter often thought his parents favored Joey over him. When Joey was killed his senior year in a car accident, this created a bigger rift between Peter and his parents. Josie began dating a guy named Matt her sophomore year, which caused her to end her friendship with Peter entirely. Matt and his other jock friends bullied Peter and they often called him “homo”, leading Peter to question his sexual orientation. Matt was a possessive and jealous boyfriend who admitted he did not like “sharing Josie” with others.
One time Peter had approached Josie after school to ask her something, which led to Matt beating him. The Judge is torn between preceding over one of the town’s biggest cases and being a mother to her grieving daughter Josie. She is determined to be a good mother and better judge, but she cannot hear what happened from Josie’s side so it will not affect her judgment. After the arraignment, she has a breakdown because she sees a mother holding a portrait of her dead daughter and realizes how close she came to losing Josie.
She takes herself off the case and begins to be more supportive of Josie. Peter realizes he has feelings for Josie and he decides to send her an email expressing his feelings. A friend of Josie’s received the email before Josie had a chance to see it and she spreads it around the whole school. For Peter, this is the last straw and a month later the shooting happens. After the shooting, Peter is sent to jail while the trial proceeds. He waives the probable cause hearing and admits that he did kill ten people and wounded nineteen others.
Peter’s defense attorney uses battered person syndrome to convince the jury that Peter’s actions were justified as a result of his suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Peter ends up being convicted of eight counts of first-degree murder and two counts of second-degree murder and is sentenced to life in prison. A month afterward, Peter commits suicide by stuffing a sock into his throat. In the final stage of the trial however Josie reveals that she was the one who shot Matt the first time after grabbing a gun that fell out of Peter’s bag.
Peter later fired the fatal second shot. At the end of the book Josie received a five-year sentence for accessory of manslaughter. Unlike my other book, Nineteen Minutes did a really good job of giving me an example of some laws that we have in place in our legal system. The case in the book was complicated because Peter did kill and wound a lot of people but for his attorney to turn to battered person syndrome, which was cause by post-traumatic stress disorder was extremely smart and made the jury think.
After looking up battered person syndrome and connecting the dots from the book I concluded that when using battered person syndrome in a case it is basically saying “It was the only way I could protect myself and to get out of the situation. ” It makes since in the book to me but it sparked some of my curiosity. I feel as if there is an extremely fine line between using that and having people believe it and using it and people not believing it and getting madder at you for trying to use it.
I wanted to read more cases where people used battered person syndrome as a defense but the only one I could find was a woman who was abused by her husband killing him. This topic was extremely interesting to me. As a result of reading this book I have learned to not have psycho friends and abusive boyfriends because the mix will NOT end well. Also anything can happen in court. There are so many ways you can defend yourself when you have done something wrong it is crazy! When I was reading this book I was thinking, “he doesn’t have a chance! ” until this weird random defense came up that caught people off guard.
Finally I had no idea that someone could kill himself with a sock. We should probably let the jail know not to give the blue paper suit people any socks… they can commit suicide with them. I honestly couldn’t put this book down. It was AMAZING! It had drama, love, friendship, heartache, bullying, relationships… the whole sha-bang! Jodi Picoult always writes her novels with multiple characters thoughts throughout the whole book, which I personally love and find incredibly interesting. Some people don’t like to read this way but I think it helps connect dots in an interesting way.
Jodi Picoult definitely must of done her research on this one because during the case all of the law terminology used was correct and sounded as if a real lawyer was writing this book. Also how Peter and Josie were convicted was a nice touch that did need research. The research for this book I could tell took time. I wouldn’t recommend this book to any parent of student that has been through a school shooting. But to everyone else who is into suspense and the shock factor should definitely read this book. Jodi Picoult does an amazing job like always.