This book, just, wow. This one packs a wallop. Picoult tells us the story of Peter Houghton, who has been tormented and bullied and abused consistently (on a daily basis) for years by his peers. He has been stuffed into lockers, had his pants pulled down (underwear included) in front of the entire school, had a private email of his spammed on to the entire school, had his head submerged in toilets, and been called ‘homo’ and ‘loser’ almost constantly. He has been cast aside and scapegoated and treated with utter cruelty for well over a decade, has spent his adolescence largely alone and degraded. One day, he walks into the school with a handgun and shoots several of his fellow students.
This is a timely and crucial story that our culture needs to read. It’s about the immense damage and pain that happens when we bully another person “for fun.” It’s about the toxic ways in which we socialize our boys with regards to their expression of feelings and tough emotions. It’s about the cruelty of high school students and kids in general, and how dangerous this is to the soul and spirit of their victims. It’s about nuance and complexity and empathy. It’s about the ways in which, even though schools and workplaces often claim to protect people from violence and harassment, they don’t really step it up and do so. It’s about what makes someone a real friend versus someone we hang out with merely for status. And it’s about inner character, and what truly makes someone a good person or a bad one.
The character development in this book is superb.
This story is not an uplifting one, but sometimes the most important stories aren’t those that leave us feeling warm and fuzzy. Sometimes, important stories are painful, upsetting, and hard to hear. This is one of those stories. It’s a relevant, heart wrenching, incredible book.
Make the time to read this piece of fiction. Because, while it’s been dubbed fiction, like much of fiction, it reflects the truth of real life, real human challenge and complexity, real human situations and people, and real human emotion.
To me, there is a lot of entertaining fiction, and these are still worthwhile and great to read. And then, there is a smaller subcategory of fiction that effects us emotionally. That causes an emotional reaction and stirring inside of us. To me, this is the ultimate, as well as most awesome fiction. And this book does that. Tears spilled past my eyes twice, in two especially poignant moments during this book, and I welled up during a handful of other scenes too.
Give this book a read. It’ll be worth your while.