Continuing the tour of fictional school shooters made famous from novels I stop at “Nineteen Minutes” by Jodi Picoult. Most of her novels seem in my view to be from a female perspective and when I first saw this novel, I thought it would be from the mother’s point of view. I also was very intrigued that Jodi would write about such a subject. True, the mother’s point of view is definitely made known in “Nineteen Minutes” but you get the perspectives of others in the story; the police detective, the defence attorney, the single mother and her daughter who is the protagonist’s love interest but most importantly, you get the perspective of Peter Hougton, the boy who did the deed.
Like the other stories I am exploring, “Nineteen Minutes” starts after the shooting and then tells the story retrospectively. What I like about this one is that the story begins immediately after the carnage. You get the detective receiving the call of “shots fired at the high school” to which he responds. Detective Patrick Ducharme dashes through the halls of the high school noting and feeling sickened by the blood bath he sees and follows the trail to the locker room where he apprehends Peter before he is able to blow his brains out. The book then travels back and forth in time going back to Peter’s birth and the birth of Josie Cormier, his childhood friend, who later betrays him. Throughout the story you get a very good picture of the hell Peter is going through, starting at his first day of school where older children throw his Superman lunchbox out of the school bus window, to his awkward junior high school days where he is first branded a homo and finally to the point in high school where the bullying has become so bad, that he goes and does the act. All throughout the story, you feel a definite sympathy for Peter and part of you doesn’t blame him for what he does. The story ends with his trial where he is sentenced to eight life consecutive life sentences to which he responds by committing suicide in prison. The rest of the characters are forced to get on with life the best way they can.
Mark would have totally sympathised with Peter. He only had three years of hell compared to Peter’s twelve. Like Peter, he would have know what it was like to be out casted and picked on to the point of explosion. How you just want to hide so no one notices you and Mark too, travelled the school halls and streets of the town in total fear of being seen and set upon. Furthermore, he too, experienced being labelled homosexual but while Mark definitely knew he wasn’t, Peter’s experiences has him questioning his sexuality. Mark would have also been impressed with Peter’s planning and execution of his big extravaganza. He would have wished he could have made home made bombs to use a distraction and he would have also wished he had the computer know how to hack into the school’s computers and post the message “Ready or not, here I come” on every computer screen in the school. The damage Peter inflicts with what Mark would have called limited firepower would have also impressed Mark. Peter uses a 9mm glock pistol for his raid and though he has a second pistol and two hunting rifles as back up, he doesn’t use them.
On the flip side, Mark would have thought Peter very foolish to sit down and eat a bowl of cereal when there was so much to do. In Mark’s mind, this act wasted precious time and he would have seen in as the reason why Peter was taken alive. Something Mark was determined not to let happen to him. Another point is that when Peter’s computer game and music collection is discovered, he might have agreed with those who said that music and violent video games had an influence on Peter’s actions.
Of the three school shooters I am looking at, Peter Houghton is the one that would have had Mark’s complete sympathy. For like Mark, Peter went through total hell and saw the only way out was to go and commit such a dastardly act. I could see if the circumstances had been different in their stories, Mark and Peter might have been prison pen pals, each admiring the handiwork of the other.
Next post: Gray Wilton from Endgame