This timely, provocative novel—Picoult's 14th—focuses on a shooting incident that takes place at a high school in Sterling, New Hampshire. Peter Houghton is a lonely outsider taunted by the popular kids. One day, he brings a gun to school and shoots 10 people, an episode of violence that lasts exactly 19 minutes. After this horrifying incident, the small town of Sterling is changed forever. Deftly employing flashbacks to tell Peter's story, Picoult creates a convincing portrait of this alienated 17-year-old. Bullied at school, Peter immerses himself in violent computer games, creating one of his own called Hide-N-Shriek, in which the tormented hero murders his enemies using weapons found in a school building. Writing with remarkable empathy and insight, Picoult examines the repercussions of Peter's actions through the perspectives of various characters, including the conflicted judge, Alex Cormier, who handles Peter's case, and her daughter, Josie, who knew Peter and witnessed the killings. In the aftermath of the murder, as Sterling residents try to make sense of Peter's actions, some come to realize that forgiveness and mercy are required in order to move on, while others feel only hatred for the boy. This is a haunting chronicle of a grief-stricken community that is sure to resonate with readers. A reading group guide is available at simonsays.com. Copyright 2008 BookPage Reviews.
Kirkus Reviews 2007 January #1
Picoult's 14th novel (after The Tenth Circle, 2006, etc.) of a school shooting begins with high-voltage excitement, then slows by the middle, never regaining its initial pace or appeal.Peter Houghton, 17, has been the victim of bullying since his first day of kindergarten, made all the more difficult by two factors: In small-town Sterling, N.H., Peter is in high school with the kids who've tormented him all his life; and his all-American older brother eggs the bullies on. Peter retreats into a world of video games and computer programming, but he's never able to attain the safety of invisibility. And then one day he walks into Sterling High with a knapsack full of guns, kills ten students and wounds many others. Peter is caught and thrown in jail, but with over a thousand witnesses and video tape of the day, it will be hard work for the defense to clear him. His attorney, Jordan McAfee, hits on the only approach that might save the unlikable kid--a variation of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder caused by bullying. Thrown into the story is Judge Alex Cormier, and her daughter Josie, who used to be best friends with Peter until the popular crowd forced the limits of her loyalty. Also found dead was her boyfriend Matt, but Josie claims she can't remember anything from that day. Picoult mixes McAfee's attempt to build a defense with the mending relationship of Alex and Josie, but what proves a more intriguing premise is the response of Peter's parents to the tragedy. How do you keep loving your son when he becomes a mass murderer? Unfortunately, this question, and others, remain, as the novel relies on repetition (the countless flashbacks of Peter's victimization) rather than fresh insight. Peter fits the profile, but is never fully fleshed out beyond stereotype. Usually so adept at shaping the big stories with nuance, Picoult here takes a tragically familiar event, pads it with plot, but leaves out the subtleties of character.Though all the surface elements are in place, Picoult falters in her exploration of what turns a quiet kid into a murderer. Copyright Kirkus 2006 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.
Library Journal Reviews 2007 January #1
Many things can happen in the span of 19 minutesÃ¢â‚¬"fun things, mundane things, and downright horrific things. Best-selling author Picoult (My Sister's Keeper ) shows just how quickly lives can be changed in this story of a school massacre much like Columbine that is told through the voice not only of the victims but also of the troubled teen who did the shooting. Readers will be pleased to see the return of two favorite characters. Patrick DuCharme, the detective from Perfect Match , is assigned to the case, while Jordan McAfee, the lawyer from The Pact , finds himself representing the shooter. Picoult has that rare ability to write about an unnerving subject in a way readers will find absorbing. What appears on the surface of a Picoult novel is never as it seems, which is why her books are so popular with book groups. Her 14th novel, perhaps her best, is highly recommended for all public libraries.Ã¢â‚¬"Marika Zemke, West Bloomfield Twp. P.L., MI[Page 98]. Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
Bestseller Picoult (My Sister's Keeper ) takes on another contemporary hot-button issue in her brilliantly told new thriller, about a high school shooting. Peter Houghton, an alienated teen who has been bullied for years by the popular crowd, brings weapons to his high school in Sterling, N.H., one day and opens fire, killing 10 people. Flashbacks reveal how bullying caused Peter to retreat into a world of violent computer games. Alex Cormier, the judge assigned to Peter's case, tries to maintain her objectivity as she struggles to understand her daughter, Josie, one of the surviving witnesses of the shooting. The author's insights into her characters' deep-seated emotions brings this ripped-from-the-headlines read chillingly alive. (Mar.)[Page 31]. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.