One day in a small New Hampshire town a young man walks into his typical American high school with two rifles, two handguns and a heart filled with vengeance. Nineteen minutes later ten lives are over, many more are injured and an entire school has to deal with an all too familiar tragedy. The question that haunts us is...could this have been avoided.
Written in flashbacks and real time, the story of Peter’s life is told with such insight that one must wonder if Picoult ever experienced bullying herself. It is said that some children are walking victims, and if this is so, then Peter is such a child. From his first experience on the school bus until the day he pulled the trigger for the last time, he was tormented by his peers and never understood why. With all the death and destruction, it is interesting that Picoult makes us feel the most sympathetic towards Peter himself.
Jodi, his best friend through elementary school is another victim in a way. She abandon Peter in high school and hangs with the popular crowd, but is all too aware of what their bullying is doing to her former friend. She is dealing with her own form of bullying from a controlling boyfriend while trying to come to terms with her relationship with her mother, superior court judge Alex Cormier.
The reader’s heart goes out to Lacy and Lewis Houghton who, after losing a son to a drunk driver, must face the possibility of losing another to the justice system. Picoult’s ability to make each character feel deserving of our sympathy is never stronger than when the reader begins hoping that defense attorney Jordon McAfee pulls that rabbit out of his hat and saves a boy who seems beyond saving.
There are some weaknesses in this book. Alex would have been forced to recuse herself from the case early on in a real life situation, and hopefully some teacher might have stepped in to protect Peter at some point in schools today, but they can be quickly overlooked as the reader spends several hours peeking into the heart and soul of some of Picoult’s most troubled characters.
Publisher - Washington Square Press; 1st edition
Date of Publication - February 5, 2008