Nineteen Minutes: looking into Picoult’s masterpiece

Jodi Picoults novel Nineteen Minutes tells the story of a school shooting in a New Hampshire town. It dives into serious topics such as mental heath and the power of relationships.

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Jodi Picoult’s novel Nineteen Minutes tells the story of a school shooting in a New Hampshire town. It dives into serious topics such as mental heath and the power of relationships.

By: Dylan DaCunha, Editor-in-Chief

Jodi Picoult is an award-winning author with several popular novels including My Sister’s Keeper and The Pact. Her novel written in 2007, Nineteen Minutes, is a masterpiece that explores the question “Do we ever really know someone,” according to Picoult. 

Nineteen Minutes

The story begins on March 6, 2007, in the small New Hampshire town of Sterling. It goes through the daily lives of several people in the town. Picoult introduces the main characters: Alex and Josie Cormier, Peter Houghton, Detective Patrick Ducharme, and Matt Royston. All of the characters are intertwined somehow- Alex is Josie’s mother, Matt is Josie’s boyfriend, and Peter has a crush on Josie. But all of them connect in one major way- there’s a shooting at the high school in which Josie, Matt, and Peter, as well as other side characters, attend. 

Peter has been a victim of incessant bullying from his peers for years, the worst from Matt and his brother, Joey. He has an interest in video games and computers and wears glasses. This all made him a frequent target of bullying. Joey died in a car accident in 2006, which drifted Peter from his parents, further causing a feeling of abandonment. After Matt pants Peter in the school cafeteria, Peter finally breaks. Shortly after, Peter opens his computer which shows an email he wrote to Josie. This causes him to go into a dissociative state and shoot up the school that morning. The shooting kills ten people and wounds many others. 

The book constantly flashes back to times before and after the shooting. Picoult shows readers the aftermath of the devastation and its effects as well as the events leading up to it. It follows many subplots prior to the shooting, including Josie’s abusive relationship with her boyfriend, her previous friendship with Peter years before, her and Peter’s diminishing mental health and suicidal thoughts, and Peter’s love of video games and knowledge of guns. The book takes a dramatic turn nearing its end, leaving readers in awe. 


The book was well-received by many news outlets including the Washington Post and the New York Times. The book was actually a New York Times Best Seller in 2009. It won four other awards, including the Lincoln Award, Texas Tayshas High School Reading List, Iowa High School Book Award Nominee, and The Flume.

Final thoughts

Nineteen Minutes was riveting and truly makes readers examine and be more conscious of the mental health of others. What would have happened if someone checked in on Peter? What would have happened if someone would have checked in on Josie? Perhaps a different outcome that wouldn’t have led to such a devastating event. Picoult immerses her readers into Sterling High so much that they feel as if they’re a part of the story. The book takes several dramatic turns throughout its course, which leaves readers constantly on the edge of their seats. All of the characters have relatable qualities, especially in relation to teens. This is a must-read for teenagers everywhere and is especially eye-opening to those in high school.