"You don't need water to feel like your drowning, do you?"
I've read a lot of Jodi Picoult books in the past - 10 according to my Goodreads account - but I somehow missed this one along the way. I'm not sure how I overlooked it. Other than 'My Sister's Keeper' it is probably one of Picoult's most well-know books so far. I kept thinking that I had read it before, but I guess not. Overall, it was a good book, but it wasn't one of my favorite of the author's novels.
The story centers around a teenage girl named Josie and a school shooting that happened at her high school where her use-to-be best friend Peter killed 10 students and injured 19 others - all in the time span of 19 minutes. The novel goes back and forth between when Peter and Josie were young children and the present where everyone in the town is trying to deal with the aftermath of the shooting: Josie who has lost her boyfriend, Josie's mom Alex who is involved in the case, Peter's parents, parents of the killed and injured students, the student's themselves, and of course Peter.
The argument that Peter made behind the massive murder of innocent teenager was that he had been bullied from literally day one of attending kindergarten. As the story progresses, it is evident that Peter had been badly bullied and much of the bullying came from Josie and her popular group of friends. Peter was always seen as 'different' and never really fit in. As the trial begins to play out, the author leaves the reader to question if Peter's actions were justified. Of course, killing innocent people is never ok, but we begin to understand how awful Peter was treated all throughout school.
This novel brings up a lot of questions. Why do troubled teenagers (or adult) involved in mass murders do what they do? Is it because of their parents? Or how they were treated at school? Or something entirely different? And, most importantly, how - as parents, educator's, etc. can we prevent this from happening - both centering around Peter's violent actions and on those of the students that bullied him to the point of causing him to take innocent lives? Lots of things to think about...
I remember high school - as I'm sure we all do. It wasn't always fun and teenagers can be downright awful towards other students. It's been almost ten years, but Jodi Picoult's vivid writing of how high school brought back a lot of thoughts and feelings from my own high school days. I wasn't bullied a lot per say, but I had a lot of friends who were 'different' and it wasn't always walking through the hallways or, in my case, getting picked last for gym class (do they still do that anymore??) Luckily, I didnt' really care. I had my own interests and friends and I couldn't really have cared less what the popular crowd thought. It left me wondering how a certain instance of bullying can barely effect one person, but cause extreme issues in another. Throughout the story, I wanted so badly to tell Peter that it gets better. That his whole world isn't always going to be walking through the dreaded high school hallways. I'm still not quite sure how to portray that to young students these days. You can say 'it gets better' all you want, but when you're living in the moment, just an entire day can feel like a life time. Peter thought like this and didn't see any other way out.
This book was an important one on many levels and I'm glad I read it, but I would have liked to see a slightly different ending. I'm not sure what exactly, but there seemed to be so much build up and the conclusion seemed to fall a little flat for me. After reading the book, I am still left with a lot of questions as to why certain characters did what they did. Not to give too much away, but I cannot understand Josie's thoughts and actions throughout a majority of the last half of the book. It just didn't add up for me. I guess I was expecting something a little different, but still a book worth reading nonetheless.