Nineteen Minutes, a novel written by Jodi Picoult, explores the moral issues that emerge after a high school shooting rampage. Set in a small New Hampshire college town, where everyone knows each other since grade school, the story focuses on two students, Josie Cormier and Peter Houghton, who were best friends as children but now move in different social circles. In high school, Josie is part of the popular crowd, but is not certain that this is what she wants in life. Peter, a sensitive boy who has been bullied since his first day of school, is a loner. After an ultimate incident of abuse, Peter runs amok, shooting and killing ten people and wounding many others.
Additional sub-plots allow the reader to examine the other characters, including the mothers of Josie and Peter, a police detective and the defense attorney. These individuals’ personalities are richly detailed; their actions serve as a means of exploring the various ethical dilemmas presented.
The shooting incident itself, and its origins and aftermath, are slowly revealed in alternating chapters, from the different characters’ points of view and various points of time, until all is exposed. It remains for the reader to discover that no community is immune from such horrific events.