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Selection Info & Discussion Guides

Nineteen Minutes
By Jodi Picoult

In Sterling, New Hampshire, 17-year-old high school student Peter Houghton has endured years of verbal and physical abuse at the hands of classmates. His best friend, Josie Cormier, succumbed to peer pressure and now hangs out with the popular crowd that often instigates the harassment. One final incident of bullying sends Peter over the edge and leads him to commit an act of violence that forever changes the lives of Sterling's residents.

Even those who were not inside the school that morning find their lives in an upheaval, including Alex Cormier. The superior court judge assigned to the Houghton case, Alex-whose daughter, Josie, witnessed the events that unfolded-must decide whether or not to step down. She's torn between presiding over the biggest case of her career and knowing that doing so will cause an even wider chasm in her relationship with her emotionally fragile daughter. Josie, meanwhile, claims she can't remember what happened in the last fatal minutes of Peter's rampage. Or can she? And Peter's parents, Lacy and Lewis Houghton, ceaselessly examine the past to see what they might have said or done to compel their son to such extremes. Nineteen Minutes also features the return of two of Jodi Picoult's characters-defense attorney Jordan McAfee from The Pact and Salem Falls, and Patrick DuCharme, the intrepid detective introduced in Perfect Match.

Rich with psychological and social insight, Nineteen Minutes is a riveting, poignant, and thought-provoking novel that has at its center a haunting question. Do we ever really know someone?

 

Here's what a reader had to say:

"'Nineteen Minutes' was incredibly touching and thought provoking. The story affected me so much that I could not put the book down. Picoult weaves such a great tale, describing this tragic event from so many different persepectives. I would highly recommend it."
--Abby, 23


Discussion Questions

Be sure to listen to the group discussion of Nineteen Minutes below!

1. When Peter and Josie are caught playing with guns, why does Alex think it's in Josie's best interest to keep her away from Peter? What significance is there in that Alex has done this?

2. A theme throughout the novel is the idea of masks and personas and pretending to be someone you're not. To which characters does this apply and why? In your daily life, what masks do you use and why? When is it right and when is it wrong for us to wear masks?

3. Nineteen Minutes doesn't touch on Christian values. Where do you think the Christian perspective would have been beneficial and to which characters, and why?

4. What significance is there in that Peter's father still hasn't forgiven the person who killed his oldest son?

5. Why does Josie choose to shoot Matt instead of shooting Peter? Why does Peter remain silent about Josie's role in the shooting?

6. In the novel, hope was not represented much. Where do you think it could have been introduced and why?

7. The previous book we discussed as a group was Mistaken Identity; the story of two Christian families brought together by a tragedy and following mistake. Compare and discuss the differences between the families involved in Mistaken Identity and those in Nineteen Minutes.

8. How would you, personally, help or talk to someone going through this type of situation? For example, to Peter, Josie, Lacy, Alex, etc.?

9. If you ran into Josie or Peter today, what would you say to them?

10. How could adults have diffused the bullying situations?

11. How guilty was each character of contributing to the event of the shooting?

12. Has this book changed the way you perceive bullying?

13. Has this book changed the way you parent or will parent?

14. In our society, it seems bullies tend to be successful. Why do you think this is?

 

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