Literature: Nineteen Minutes

A 2007 novel by Jodi Picoult.

The small town of Sterling, New Hampshire, is torn apart by a school shooting committed by one of its students, Peter Houghton, who snapped after years of bullying. In the aftermath, the victims and their families find themselves isolated from everyone. Josie Cormier, the daughter of the judge assigned to the case, who should be the best witness, is unable to remember her boyfriend being murdered in front of her; her mother, Alex, struggles over whether or not to remain sitting on the case; Jordan McAfee takes Peter's case and finds himself overwhelmed by the amounts of evidence against his client. Through it all, everyone asks whose fault the shooting is: does blame lie with Peter, or with the people who pushed him over the edge?

Tropes:

  • Adults Are Useless: Alex is mostly an oblivious to what is going on in Josie's life up until the shooting.
    • The teachers rarely do anything to put an end to the bullying. One even says that Peter is better off learning how to defend himself than the teachers taking action.
  • Alpha Bitch: Courtney Ignatio.
  • Axes at School: The story revolves around a school shooting, the events leading up to it, and the aftermath.
  • Bathroom Stall of Overheard Insults: Peter overhears his brother making fun of him while in the stalls.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Averted. One girl, who was renowned at the school for her beauty, had her face ruined in the attack. When Josie lies to her and tells her she is still pretty, it's noted that the girl knows it's a deception.
  • Berserk Button: A private email sent to Josie from Peter is leaked which humiliates Peter. After accidently reading the email again a month later, Peter has a psychotic break which cause the shooting.
  • Big Brother Bully: Joey was incredibly abusive to Peter; it's not shown whether he acted this way towards other students.
  • Break the Cutie: Basically, Peter's whole life.
  • Brutally Honest: While a playing a game of truth or dare, Josie asks Peter if she hates him. He flat out tells her yes.
    • When asked about Josie, Derek calls her a bitch. After his mother snaps at him, he defends himself, saying "He isn't lying."
  • Butt Monkey: Peter.
  • Continuity Nod: Jordan McAfee from The Pact and Salem Falls returns as Peter's attorney, and Patrick Ducharme from Perfect Match returns as the lead detective on the shooting.
  • Coup de Grāce: Patrick notes that Matt is "more dead" than the other victims, having been shot once in the torso and once in the head. It's because Peter shot Matt in the head, after he's lying on the ground after Josie gut-shot him.
  • Disappeared Dad: Josie's father.
  • The Dog Bites Back: One interpretation of what Peter does. Also, Josie's murder of Matt.
  • Domestic Abuse: Matt is verbally, emotionally, and physically abusive towards Josie who puts up with it because she doesn't know who she is without him anymore.
  • Driven to Suicide: The mother of one of the victims walks into a gun shop, takes a gun, and shoots herself. A month after his conviction, Peter commits suicide in his jail cell.
    • It's also shown early on that Josie has a collection of pills gathered up, as a sort of back-up plan in her mind. After the shooting, she almost swallows them, but isn't able to go through with it.
    • Although he doesn't actually do it, Matt almost kills himself in attempt to get Josie to get back together with him.
  • Face-Heel Turn: The foundation of Josie's split from Peter and the end of their friendship; in middle school, a girl got her period in the middle of class and several students started picking on her. Peter, about to join in, realized what he was doing and demanded that the bullies leave her alone. Josie didn't, and joined the bullies. And she has been with them ever since.
  • First Kiss: Josie has her first kiss with Matt. Peter has his with Josie.
  • Good Girls Avoid Abortion: Played straight with Alex; she became pregnant through an affair with her law professor, Logan Rourke, and was encouraged by him to abort, but found herself unable to go through with it. Subverted with Josie; she becomes pregnant with Matt's child but doesn't want to go to a clinic to have an abortion done, because that would involve telling her mother. Instead, she manually induces a miscarriage.
  • Girl Posse: Josie even states that she is one of Courtney's followers.
  • Isolation Despondency: As a child, Peter is forbidden to contact Josie after the two of them are caught playing with guns.
  • Jerkass: Sterling High is full of them.
  • Jerk Jock: All of the popular boys, especially Matt and Drew.
  • Keep Away: Matt and Drew play keep away with Peters lunch box.
  • Mexican Standoff: The school massacre actually ends with one, with Peter holding Matt at gunpoint, while Josie points one of Peter's own guns at him. Josie breaks the standoff by shooting Matt herself.
  • No Social Skills: Peter really doesn't have any.
  • Parental Abandonment: Josie's father abandoned her.
  • Parental Favoritism: Lewis and Lacey very clearly favor their older, golden boy son Joey over Peter.
  • Revenge: at least part of Peter's motivation.
    Peter: "They started it."
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Peter after years of being bullied. However, Peter doesn't actually plan his revenge until a month before the shooting.
  • Second Love: Alex is this for Patrick.
  • Secret Keeper: Peter never tells anyone, not even his lawyer, that Josie pulled the trigger on Matt. He even advises her not to tell anyone as well so he'll shoulder the blame for it. Josie keeps the secret right up until she's on the witness stand at Peter's trial.
  • Stepford Smiler: Josie.
  • Teen Pregnancy: Josie gets pregnant by Matt, but manually induces a miscarriage to avoid having to tell anyone.
  • Their First Time: Matt and Josie have sex for the first time in Matt's car.
  • Unlucky Childhood Friend: Peter to Josie.
  • The Unfavorite: Peter.
  • Used to Be a Sweet Kid: Peter was described as being sweet and sensitive. After the shooting, he's portrayed as being the opposite.
  • Visit by Divorced Dad: Inverted; Josie's dad never bothers to visit her, so in high school, she tracks him down instead. It doesn't go well.
  • We Used to Be Friends: Peter and Josie. The division between them really happened in middle school, over the bullying of a classmate who had gotten her period. Peter demanded the bullies stop. Josie joined them.
  • What Does She See in Him?: Peter really doesn't understand why Josie is with Matt especially after learning Matt Would Hit a Girl.
  • Wild Teen Party: Matt and Josie attend one of these which goes terribly wrong for the couple. Matt has a jealous fit which causes Josie to break up with him only to get back together after he threatens to kill himself.
  • The Woobie: Peter, though Josie's life is no slouch in this department either.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Peter's life was one kick in the teeth after another, and then he just snapped.
  • Would Hit a Girl: Matt pins Josie to a wall so hard that she has bruises. Another time, he pushes her, causing her to trip and break her leg.
  • You Will Be Spared: When Peter is circling the pictures of people he plans to kill in his yearbook, initially he circles Josie as well. But after getting stuck for a couple of hours with her in an elevator and he learns she isn't as horrible as he thought, he removes the circle around her name and writes the words "Let Live."