Jodi Picoult does something unexpected – at least for me – with this book. She begins with a school shooting in a small New Hampshire town and then skips back and forth in time to describe the resulting investigation and trial but also the events that led up to the bloodbath. And she keeps the shooter alive so he can stand trial and explain – or not – his actions.
At no point does she ever excuse what he does, but one of the things I find so impressive is the way she lays out – in excruciating detail – the relentless bullying and humiliation that led to the boy opening fire on his fellow students. She puts you right inside him and makes you see the world through his eyes. It’s painful, and lonely, and unpleasant.
That last sentence may put people off. If it does that’s a shame, because this is a scorching read and one I finished in two days because I had to find out what happened next. If nothing else, it’s an enormously compelling story.
It’s also a book that engages with our current western society, considers the way we live and asks us – or at least those of us willing to make the effort – to examine our own behaviour and assumptions. She did the same with Small Great Things, which asked a lot of uncomfortable questions about racism, and was an equally gripping page-turner.
I’m going to look for more by her.