Book Reviews, philosophy, Review, Writing

“Being and Time” by Martin Heidegger

The following is an exploration into the question: How does thinking relate to saying? It is a philosophical essay I had written in the past about Martin Heidegger’s thoughts in his book Being and Time. I don’t remember which book I used to get the quotes from so I am unsure if the page numbers coincide directly with every version of his book. Alternatively, if you are having trouble finding the quotes in your version of the book, I would suggest copy and pasting a section of the quotes I used into Google and looking up which sections correspond to which quote. This article by James Fieser has some of the quotes I use with the sections cited with them, along with other notes.

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How does thinking relate to saying?

Saying is the verbal manifestation of thinking. Thinking is primarily concerned in the subconscious, while saying is in the realm of conscious effort as it takes reflection and deliberate intention in order to communicate what one says. Heidegger references Dasein, or “there-being”, where all modes of thinking originate and exist. Dasein requires world-relation in order to exist, as its relationship and interaction with the world is what colors all its worldview. Dasein seeks to understand and comes to understanding through an introspective reflection on the subjects at hand, continually and ceaselessly rearranging its own contents. A conscious being not only thinks about things to come to an understanding of it, but also expresses its understanding externally in order to communicate its own knowledge and engage in discourse for more knowledge. Heidegger expresses this in the following passage: “[…] Understanding in itself has the existential structure which we call project[ion]. […] The project[ive] character of understanding constitutes [Dasein’s] being-in-the-world with regard to the disclosedness of its there as the there of a [possible being]. And, as thrown, Dasein is thrown into the [way] of being of projecting. Projecting has nothing to do with [relating oneself] to a plan thought out, according to which Dasein arranges its being, but [rather], as Dasein, it has always already projected itself and is, as long as it is, projecting. As long as it is, Dasein has understood itself and will understand itself in terms of possibilities” (Heidegger 136). Understanding is in the realm of possibility, where there will be no complete or infinitely objective Truth as Dasein has sense-perceptive, cognitive, situational, and time-constricted limitations that affect understanding.

Phenomenology is the only way to approach the ontological questions; the questions about fundamental being. This is a nod to traditional metaphysics while also trying to deconstruct the tradition itself, re-contextualizing the information to come to a deeper understanding of it. I acknowledge that the purpose of Heidegger’s phenomenology is to approach the ontological questions in an attempt to deconstruct and revitalize the claim, however I critique that there is no need to do this when it comes to thinking and saying.

By consciously thinking something into being, Dasein has already interacted with “saying” as it says to itself what it thinks. Dasein also already “says” about a subject when it thinks about it, as Dasein is constantly relating to whatever is at hand: ““Understanding is the existential being of Dasein’s own[most] possible being, [such that] this being discloses in itself what its [very] being is about” (Heidegger 135). Any public discourse that stems from the individualized thinking, or in other words, any external “saying” that happens between two individuals, is presupposed by the individuals’ subjective thinking. Therefore, saying is permanently tied to thinking in the sense that one must think a subject in order to have anything to say about it. It’s hard to argue against this, but I also see no reason to question or differentiate between the two. Why posit that saying is in a different realm from thinking? It is interesting to dissect the importance of thinking in what one says, but to say that thinking is different than saying or work in separate ways is to say that an almond is not a nut, or is different than a nut. One is a subsection of another, encompassed in the mode of being that is Dasein.

Finally, Heidegger makes interesting points to listening as an integral existential part of Dasein: “Listening to … is the existential being-open of Dasein as being-with for the other” (Heidegger 153). By listening to what another individual is saying, there is an exchange of understanding of each other’s being. It is primarily through saying what one thinks to another individual, and having that individual listen to the content of what is being said, that defines its understanding of being-in-the-world. As we have already established that the act of relating is imperative to Dasein’s existence, the act of listening is imperative in relating. It is through an open inquiry of the other’s words and self-reflection of what is being said that Dasein maintains its own sense of authenticity in the world: “Hearing even constitutes the primary and authentic openness of Dasein for its ownmost [possible being], as in hearing the voice of the friend whom every Dasein carries with it. Dasein hears because it understands. As [understanding] being-in-the-world [with others], it ‘listens to’ [and is bound to, hörig] itself and to Mitdasein [being-there with], and in this listening [being bound] belongs to these” (Heidegger 153).

Book Reviews, philosophy, Review, Writing

“Philosophical Investigations” by Ludwig Wittgenstein

The following is an exploration into Ludwig Wittgenstein’s “Philosophical Investigations“. This was an explanation I had presented as an essay to my philosophy class, “Language, Meaning, and Understanding”. Hopefully this provides some sort of insight into this work. In particular, I explore the question: How does meaning relate to use?


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Wittgenstein claims in his “Philosophical Investigations” that meaning is how a word is “use[d] in language” (Wittgenstein 20). Meaning is contingent on usage, as it is grounded in the reality or ideality in which the word is used. Usage is imperative to meaning, as sense-perception is how one comes into contact with the context of a phrase. There is the tendency to problematize the relationship between knowledge of a word and usage; however, it is necessary that there is the acknowledgement of something referenced in order for a word to be created in the first place: “What I really see must surely be what is produced in me by the influence of the object..a sort of a copy, something that in its turn can be looked at, can be before one; almost something like a materialisation …” (Wittgenstein 199). It is not an argument of whether or not the subjects are, in the present moment, coming into physical sensory contact with a word. It is an argument towards what a word means in the context of the reality it is being used. In order to determine meaning, there are several foundations upon which it must be established; a normative linguistic stage, and an exchange between a receiver of the information and the giver of the information.

The normative linguistic stage this paper refers to is described by Wittgenstein as the rules of interpretation. He claims that all that is said and communicated “is, on some interpretation, in accord with the rule” and that “interpretation still hangs in the air along with what it interprets” (Wittgenstein 80). The main rule of interpretation has to do with how a word is societally accepted and established, and also serves as the foundation for how meaning is created.

A word’s meaning is inherently embedded in usage within a society. Words in it of themselves are tools in language to express ideas and interpretations to other folks who are on the same normative linguistic stage. This stage is determined by the culture of the society in which the individuals interact: “Certainly. From time to time he gives [them] the right tip.—This is what ‘learning’ and ‘teaching’ are like here.—What one acquires here is not a technique; one learns correct judgements. There are also rules, but they do not form a system, and only experienced people can apply them right,” (Wittgenstein 227). The two characters on either end of the bridge, the giver of information on one end and the receiver of information on the other, play on this normative linguistic stage. Play or word usage is not completely open-ended, it relies on already-established and societally subconscious rules of interpretation. Words serve as the bridge in which one crosses over to meaning, always on a journey forward towards closer levels of understanding with the other. It is important to note in this metaphor that both characters must be on the same bridge in order to interact: “What happens when we make an effort—say in writing a letter—to find the right expression for our thoughts?—This phrase compares the process to one of translating or describing: the thoughts are already there (perhaps were there in advance) and we merely look for their expression” (Wittgenstein 108). There are many instances of miscommunication based off of not starting from the same place; there is a humorous image of two characters on two different bridges crossing two separate streams, where both assume that they are getting closer to the other, but aren’t even close to getting across the same bridge.

Both the giver and the receiver of the information must be clear on their intent on interpretation in order to be playing the same game and understanding the same rules of word usage. Without these things, meaning cannot be completely transferred from either party. Both must make it clear where there is any disconnect in their own subjective usage or meaning of a word. It is impossible to use the correct string of words to perfectly communicate one’s own ideas, as the mind already abstracts itself in the process of conferring a phrase to say. In understanding how a word is being used and under what context, general meaning is easier to discern.

Movie Reviews, Review

Movie Critique: Roma


Yesterday my friends and I went to watch “Roma” in Berkeley. Set in the 1970s in Mexico City, this film follows the story of a maid who works for a middle-class family. It was written and directed by Alfonso Cuarón. I don’t want to reveal too much about the film, as you can watch it in theaters, (soon) on Netflix, and you can look up the plot online.

All in all, this film was pretty great. The cinematography was beautiful and I was thoroughly impressed by the filmmakers’ attention to detail. One of the things I loved the most about this movie is their use of long, sustained, one-take shots. In several of the scenes that played in the movie, the directors decided to film all the action of the scene in one long shot without any interruptions or cuts. What resulted were these beautiful vignettes that captured the life of the characters.

The movie is shot in black and white, which I appreciated. The choice to shoot in black and white placed the emphasis on the characters and their actions, as opposed to what was happening visually. It was still a visually compelling film, but the choice to make it black and white caused me to take in the scenery of the scenes more passively and focus more on what was going on.

I think the length and the pace of the film was alright. It might have been my own restlessness, but in some parts of the film I felt like the pace was so slow that it made me antsy. The filmmakers chose to include a lot of long, slow, sustained shots throughout the movie, which had benefits and drawbacks. Since there weren’t a lot of quick shots that propelled the movie’s actions, it felt a little long in some scenes. However, I think that some scenes in particular benefitted from how long and sustained and slow the shots were, as it increased the immersion into the film and built a lot of emotional depth.

If you’re planning on going to watch this movie, I should warn you that there is a lot of triggering content in the film. I don’t want to ruin the movie for anyone, but if you have unpleasant experiences with children’s deaths or gun violence, I’d recommend that you hold off on watching this.

Book Reviews, Life, Movie Reviews, Review

The Southern Reach Trilogy + Cartopia

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I was blessed to be able to receive the Southern Reach trilogy from my friend, Thom. We caught up yesterday at Cartopia in Portland and had a great time eating delicious crepes and Mexican foods.

The Southern Reach trilogy, written by Jeff VanderMeer, is a great mystery, sci-fi, action, and thriller series. Recently the first book, Annihilation, came out as a movie featuring Natalie Portman, Gina Rodriguez, Tessa Thompson, and Jennifer Leigh (all-star, all-female cast). Thom and I went to see the movie when it first came out in order to compare it to the books. The movie by itself was pretty good, but deviated away from a lot of what the books reveal. I highly recommend reading the series before tackling the movie, just so you can have a full appreciation for the context of the books.

I don’t want to give any spoilers out for those interested in reading the books, but I will say that the trilogy is one of my favorites I’ve read. VanderMeer is a compelling writer and leads you through an intense exploration of an imaginative world. I cried, got goosebumps, and had sleepless nights because of this series. It features wilderness, spies, relatable characters, extraterrestrial life, and mystery. The series will leave you with more questions than it does answers, and make you think about Area X for a long time after you put the books down. Here is a description of the book from Wikipedia:

“The book describes a team of four women (a biologist, an anthropologist, a psychologist, and a surveyor) who set out into an area known as Area X. The area is abandoned and cut off from the rest of civilization.[1] They are the 12th expedition. The other expeditions have been fraught with disappearances, suicides, aggressive cancers, and mental trauma. The novel won the 2014 Nebula Award for Best Novel[2] and the 2014 Shirley Jackson Award for best novel.”

Check it out!

Book Reviews, Review

“How All This Started” by Pete Fromm

This is a book report I had done a few years ago on How All This Started by Pete Fromm.



The novel, How All This Started, is told in the first-person point of view from the protagonist’s, Austin Scheer’s, perspective. One of the main characters in the novel, Abilene, acts as both one of the protagonists and as the main antagonist in the novel. The plot of How All This Started is complex because the events that happen in the novel aren’t sequential and the events seem random and not concrete.
Austin Scheer is the baseball-loving, obedient brother to his bipolar sister, Abilene. At first the family thought Abilene was going through a rebellious stage, but after coming back from a random, two-week disappearance, Abilene is hospitalized and diagnosed with bipolar disorder. The family suffers because of Abilene’s disorder; Abilene can’t control her mood swings, she becomes violent and eccentric, and she frequently runs away from home. Austin tries to fulfill his dream of becoming a famous pitcher while she’s gone. Abilene eventually comes back to her family to help coach Austin because she was once a pitching prodigy (she couldn’t become professional because of sexism, however). Austin’s parents try to convince him that Abilene needs help, and eventually they all try to intercede. Even after trying to help, the Scheer family witness as Abilene ends up getting pregnant, having an abortion, and getting her tubes tied, and she tries to commit suicide. After seriously considering her options, Abilene decides to succumb to her family’s wishes and goes into rehab. The novel ends with Abilene and Austin going their separate ways in life; Abilene to college for education and getting clean, and Austin to college for baseball and starting his career.


The novel is told in first-person in the protagonist’s (Austin Scheer) perspective. Austin tells the events that happen in the story pretty bluntly, but expands on how he feels or how he thinks other people feels by talking about his thoughts. For example, on page 50, Austin describes his ball game with him and his dad:

“’What we play is real!’ I hissed, whipping out a snapping curve, suddenly wanting to hurt him, at least shock him. The old ball broke hard, too fast for Dad, who didn’t block it with his body either. But dad just gave me a look, one I could see him force his smile through. ‘Always more of a hitter than a fielder,’ he said, then turned and went after the ball. I watched him trot off into the desert, then spun around and went inside.” (p. 50)
The author tends to not elaborate on actions in the novel, and instead offers commentary on how the main character perceives the things that are going on around him. In the example shown above, the author tells about what Austin and his dad are doing and then provides the description of how powerful Austin throws the ball by adding the thought, “suddenly wanting to hurt him, at least shock him”. The description shows with how much force Austin threw the ball, so it can be assumed that the ball he threw was a powerful fastball.

Austin’s first-person perspective used in the novel is an effective way to tell the story because it provides a sort of “bystander” perspective. Since the story is mostly about Austin and his family dealing with Abilene’s bipolar disorder, the thoughts that are shown through Austin are thoughts of a person who is watching someone else do an action, rather than doing it themselves. Austin’s commentary is usually about how he feels about Abilene or what he thinks Abilene is thinking. This is portrayed on page 197, after Abilene smashes her father’s nose during a seemingly ‘wild pitch’:

“I pinched my mitt tight to my side. ‘No,’ I whispered. I walked straight across the drive, picking the baseball from the rock where Dad had left it lying. It had one deep, new scuff on it, from digging into the rock before hitting him. The smash into his nose had been too quick to leave any blood. ‘Come on Austin,’ Abilene sighed, calling me back. ‘We better go check on Dad. Mom’s probably already called out the Guard-‘Help us! Help us! She’s gone crazy! She’s trying to kill us all with a baseball!’’ Abilene cried in a trembling falsetto I’d never heard from her before, a perfect imitation of Mom at her scared worst.’

In the above example, Austin gives a description about everything that happened. He is conflicted or agitated by the way he “pinched [his] mitt tight to [his] side” and he is worried or surprised at the “trembling falsetto [he’d] never heard from her before” that Abilene imitates of their mom.

The “bystander” perspective also implies that the character in which the story is being told (Austin) is a person who tends to not speak up much because he likes to watch what is going around him. He admits on page 9 that he has started off high school under the rocks because Abilene told him to:

“…Abilene had redshirted me last year…appearing out of nowhere, she always said, we’d take the world by storm…I’d slunk through school without hardly saying a word, without making a friend, just going through my classes, not even playing a game of catch.”

The above example is evidence that Austin’s personality is that of a shy, standing-in-the-corner bystander.


I believe that there are two protagonists in the novel. The first and main protagonist in the novel (from whose viewpoint is in which the story is told) is Austin Scheer. He is portrayed as the dutifully obedient younger brother to his sister, Abilene. He is also seen as a fantastic, dedicated pitcher (whose talent was introduced and established by none other than his sister, Abilene). For the most part, Austin’s personality is that of confused service dog. He is the obedient, loving, pushover and a follower of everything his sister wants him to do. He is also conflicted, confused, and misunderstanding of his sister because he doesn’t know at first how to react to the news that his beloved sister is bipolar and messed up in the head. Austin’s personality is prevalently shown through his thoughts and what he says in the novel. The example used before about Abilene redhshirting Austin and making him not be friends with anyone (on page 9) clearly shows how obedient he is to his sister. On pages 125-126, Austin shows how confused and conflicted he is when it comes to his sister’s condition:

“’Ab’lene told me all about your diagnosis,’ [I said]. ‘It’s a disease, Austin. Like diabetes…It’s not something Abilene chose. It’s not something any of you caused. It’s not anybody’s fault. It’s a disease,’ [she said]. ‘There’s nothing wrong with Ab’lene,’ [I said].”

The above example shows how Austin is in denial about Abilene’s disease. He refuses to believe that there is anything wrong with Abilene because he cares so much about her. He knows that Abilene is clearly not like anybody else he knows, but since she has had such a big effect on his life, he can’t seem to be convinced about the fact that there is something wrong with Abilene.

I think that Abilene is the other protagonist in the novel because so much of the story is about her and how her family deals with her illness. Abilene is an attractive, intelligent, rebellious, emotional 21-year-old. She is also bipolar and therefore she is also eccentric, demanding, irresponsible, powerful, misunderstood, internally conflicted, and is even sometimes violent. Abilene’s personality is showed in third-person from Austin’s perspective.  Her intelligence and some of her irresponsibleness is shown on page 8:

“…she wrapped up school in a blaze of credits, graduating a year eary, talking of nothing but getting out of here. But then she was back again after only three months of junior college.”

Another example of her irresponsible nature is on pages 54-56 when she unexpectedly becomes pregnant:

“’What mom? What am I going to do? This wasn’t supposed to happen to me,’ [she said]…’For God’s sake,’ Abilene blurted, almost a laugh. ‘Half the time I didn’t know where I was, let alone who I was with. Anybody who could keep up with me. That was my daunting criterion. There wasn’t anybody who could do it for long, but I could always find somebody fresh for extra innings.’”

An example of Abilene’s violent, powerful, demanding nature is shown on page 108 when she explodes into fury during Austin’s first high school game in baseball:

“’You needled-dicked cocksucker!’ she shouted. ‘You weren’t fit to hand me a baseball, let alone take one away from him!’…’Touch him and I’ll kill you!’ Abilene screamed, the men behind her moving in…I heard one say, ‘It’s only a game’ before Abilene whirled around, swinging punches.’”


The story takes place primarily in Pecos, Texas. The time/date in which the novel takes place in isn’t mentioned in the novel. The author of the novel mentioned in an interview that he chose to have the setting in a more isolated part of Texas because he wanted to focus solely on the characters in the novel and their internal struggles and not on the interactions of the Scheer family with other characters in the novel. Pecos, Texas is a town that has a desert climate and his home to ‘northers’ or cold, windy (not common, but) rainy storms. Northers are significant in the novel because one of Austin and Abilene’s favorite activities to do together is feel the cold and the wind from a norther and the presence of northers tie the beginning of the novel to the end of the novel. A lot of the events that happen in the novel occur in the Scheers’ house, Pecos High, and the Rattlesnake Bomber Base, which are all located in Pecos. Another place where some events take place is Midland, Texas, where Abilene and her mother travel to in order to receive therapy and her lithium pills.

The Scheers’ house is where the Scheers live. A lot of events happen in the Scheer house, such as the multitude of ball games that Austin and his father have during Abilene’s absence, and the event where Abilene goes into lithium, bipolar lockdown (before going away to live by herself).

Pecos High is where Abilene used to attend high school and where Austin goes to school presently. Abilene excelled in school at Pecos High, and tried out for the boys’ baseball team. She made the team because she was one of the best pitchers Coach Thurston ever saw, but she never played a game and the other players shunned her because she was a girl. Austin tries out for the baseball team in Pecos High, and he makes the cut and is allowed to pitch in the very first game of the season. He quits after his first game (because Abilene told him to) but eventually re-joins the team later on.

Rattlesnake Bomber Base is where Austin and Abilene go to practice their skills in baseball. They play baseball with a few wooden planks as plates, a B-29 tire as a bat, and a box of used baseballs. When Abilene leaves, Austin continues to practice his baseball at the Rattlesnake Bomber Base.


Theme: Families can pull together and conquer even through very tough times.

Pete Fromm wrote about this theme by telling the story of a discombobulated family and how they struggle for a better life. Abilene’s illness greatly affects the family because she often goes out on her own with suicidal or manic thoughts and she constantly needs to be watched for her own good. There isn’t really a specific example of the theme, but there is a “bigger-pictured” version of the theme in the novel that is over the span of about 100 pages:

“‘…But Abilene, it’s for your own good. We’re so worried about you.’ [Mom said]. Abilene laughed like crazy at that. Then there was a loud slap, Abilene bringing her ands down hard and flat on the table. ‘No, it is not for my own good.’ Mom sucked in a startled breath…” (219-220).

“‘Abby,’ Mom started, and I heard a whack. Though I’d never heard it before, I knew right away it was the sound of a hand against face…there was more shouting then, not words, just shouts, and in a second Dad staggered out of the bedroom with Abilene pinched in his giant arms…” (225).

“‘What?’ I shouted. But Dad just kept staring right through me…‘Whole different game, isn’t it?’ he snapped…‘You ever pull another stunt like that with your mother, there won’t be mitts and balls.’ He shook me once, hard. ‘Do you understand?’…I said, ‘She is so fucked-up Dad.’ Dad whirled, leaping down the steps. I staggered backward into the dark. ‘Abilene! Abilene! Not Mom!’ Dad stopped. He couldn’t see me behind all the headlights. ‘She’s sick. Abilene is not fucked-up. She’s sick.’ (240-241)

“’She’s not missing anymore.’ Dad reached out, snagging my hand, pulling back, but not like before, gentle this time, letting me stay out at arm’s length, keeping my hand in his, but not just to capture me…’You’ve got to be easy with her. As hard as this is on us, it’s worse for her…Just don’t push her. Let her find her own way back.” (245).

“‘There are things I want to forget, Austin. But, believe me, you are not one of them. And I’m not pulling a Dad on you, either. I’m not going to lock up everything that came before now. I’m not making that mistake. There is no way my How All This Started is going to by my lithium prescription.’ I brushed my fingers across my shirt, my tattoo. “What am I going to do with mine now?’ Abilene flashed a smile. She slapped her hand against my chest. ‘Live up to it.’” (304)

So in the above examples, the family clearly goes through a lot of emotional turmoil with each other, but eventually learn to grow and develop out of their problems. A universal theme that probably relates to the theme shown in the novel is the theme that, “Love conquers all”. This universal theme is shown through Abilene and Austin’s loyal and pure relationship with each other and the way the family even though they have every reason to stay stressed and separated, come together and create something bigger for themselves.


The title to “How All This Started” is actually explained in the novel:
“How All This Started was Dad’s favorite story – about our names, Abilene’s and mine. Not where we were born, but where we were conceived. ‘How all this started!’ he’d always say, waving his arms around like he had a kingdom to show off. He’d tell the story at the slightest excyse, to anybody who asked, and some who didn’t. ‘We were newlyweds, you know, and we were only in Abilene for the night!’”

The story of  How All This Started in the novel is like a cynical joke that kind of bothers Abilene and Austin, as shown:

“’…And have to listen to a whole new installment of How All This Started? ‘And then there was the night outside Pecos! We were old, you know, and we’re not sure how it happened but…Have a little kid running around named Pecos?’ I tried. ‘Yeah I suppose,’ Abilene said. ‘But this would’ve been more like How All This Stopped.’” (58)

“’…Mom and Dad could have done it in Lubbock. That would have been worse What id that’s how all this started? Your name would be Lubbock. Lubby. Lubbs. Or what about Amarillo? Balmorhea?’ She cracked the smallest smile I’d ever seen. ‘Wacko’ [she said]. I laughed too loud. ‘Hey Waco,’ I said, saying it right, ‘please come out and play-o.’” (61)

The story of How All This Started eventually becomes pretty prevalent in Austin and Abilene’s unhappiness, as shown on:

“’…their lives before all this started…It’s pathetic!…Take a look around! How what all started? This is it. The two of them and their happy, little lives shriveled up and vanished for a goddamned patch of empty desert! A lunatic daughter! Me!’” (126-127)

“’There are things I want to forget, Austin. But, believe me, you are not one of them. And I’m not pulling a Dad on you, either. I’m not going to lock up everything that came before now. I’m not making that mistake. There is no way my How All This Started is going to by my lithium prescription.’” (304).

I think that the title, “How All This Started”, might also be a spin-off of the common phrase, “How did this happen?” I think that the title is a spin-off on the phrase because if I was one of the main characters in the novel dealing with all of the stuff they have to, I would probably ask, “How did this happen/Why is this happening to me?”


“How All This Started” had many good aspects about it, and a lot of bad aspects. Personally, I don’t think that the plot of the novel flowed together that well. The events that occurred in the book are very sporadic, and I think that it was pretty difficult trying to sum up the plot when the plot itself changed every single chapter.

The descriptions of the characters and the events that happened in the novel weren’t as well-developed as I hoped. The descriptions got the point across, but I feel as if there was too little “emotion” or “personality” when it came to describing people, events, or places in the novel. The sentences that did describe what was going on in the novel were mostly short sentences and didn’t have many adjectives to emphasize what the things look like, so I had a hard time visualizing what I was reading.

Lastly, some of the themes and the ideal audience that the novel is reaching out to only reaches out to a specific audience. One of the themes of the novel has to do with sports and baseball, and I wasn’t quite familiar with anything that had to with sports or baseball terminology. I think that the audience that the novel would reach the best would be a mostly-male or baseball-loving audience from the ages of 18-35. I don’t think that female audiences who don’t enjoy baseball or sports would enjoy this novel because it has a lot of baseball terminology and events. I think that a 18-35 male who likes baseball will enjoy this novel because 18-35 is around the age where a male would be old enough to be interested enough in novel, but not too old to where the topic and the style of the novel would be too immature for them.

Book Reviews, Life, Review, Thoughts, Writing

My Life as an “Odyssey” Essay

The following is a book report of sorts that I had done a few years ago. We were supposed to compare our life to the “Odyssey”, a Greek epic poem about Odysseus. This is both a reflection on my life and an exploration into the “Odyssey”.





My parents told me that when I was little, I was extremely independent and strong-willed. They told me that I had a creative, determined, and straightforward way of thinking. They said that if I there was anything I wanted to do, the only person who could stop me from doing it was myself.

As a kid, I knew who I was and whom I wanted to become, but as I grew up my inward stability started to sway back-and-forth. The older I became, the more I realized that my emotions were getting harder and harder to control. My unstable emotions started to become progressively worse in 8th grade, and by then I knew that there had to be something wrong with me. After a lot of research on mental disorders, I came to the conclusion that I was bipolar. My self-prescribed diagnosis was confirmed by my psychologist and psychiatrist in March 2012, who said that I had Bipolar II, Seasonal Affective Disorder, and intense anxiety.

The struggle to control my emotions and achieve balance in my life is the main journey that I go through every day. My constant mood swings affect nearly everything I do on a daily basis. It’s hard for me to maintain solid grades because my motivation to do things always changes. I can’t have a healthy dating life and my relationships with friends and family are constantly strained because of my lack of emotionally stability. Being bipolar affects me physically as well, because my sleep and eating patterns change according to whether I’m in my depressive phase or manic phase.

The problem with being bipolar is that you don’t quite know how you’re going to feel the next day, and almost every emotion is heightened and intensified. Instead of feeling “normal”, I either feel depressed and stressed and anxious, or charismatic and energetic and bubbly. When I’m in my depressive phase, the old Jazmyne that was determined and hard-working completely goes away, and she’s replaced by someone who’s lazy and unmotivated and surrenders to sadness. When I’m in my manic phase, the old Jazmyne is electrified, and it’s like I need to do a billion things at once in order to feel alive and tell people about everything beautiful and wonderful in life. And I can’t just ignore my intensified emotions, either- it’s always there in the back of my mind, ready to resurface and cause problems in my life. Similar to Odysseus’ struggle with overcoming adversaries to go home, it’s like every place I turn the thing I’m trying to overcome brings more problems.

Like Odysseus’ distractions, there are distractions I have to deal with that constantly prevent me from reaching my destination, which is achieving balance in my life. I think that one of the biggest distractions is my never-ending concern for other people because whenever something happens to someone I care about I become agitated and worried for them. There are so many things that my family members and friends deal with, and I always let their problems add to the stress of my own problems. Multiple family members and friends of mine have mental disorders, as well, and I always trouble myself more than I should about their happiness and well-being. Some of my family members also have physical complications, and so I get worked up about their health and how they are doing all the time. Many of my friends are self-conscious and complain to me a lot about their unhappiness about how they are, which make me feel the need to console and fret over them. Another distraction I have that ties in to my concern for other people is my concern for my family’s finances. I worry as much, if not more, about the financial stability of my family. I make a lot of sacrifices so that I don’t feel like a financial burden to my parents, and I worry a lot about bills and how I can help save my family money.

Odysseus is faced with many temptations throughout his journey, and every now and then it seems easier for him to surrender to the temptations that taunt him. For me, it’s also tempting to give up to my emotions, or to give in to negative ways to cope with how I feel. A lot of times I do submit to whatever phase I am in and I let my unstable emotions take over my life. When I’m in my depressive phase, it’s easy to just not do work and stay unmotivated. I rationalize that being in my manic phase is helpful to me because I get things done and I’m more social in that phase. Many times I’ve been tempted to turn to poisonous groups of friends to relieve or magnify whatever phase I’m in. In both of my phases, I can be extremely impulsive, which is a huge temptation I have to try and counter with rationalization (which doesn’t always work).

The main antagonist I have in my journey to maintain steadiness over my emotions is myself. I am a very stubborn, independent, and defensive person. At first, it took me a while to convince myself that I needed help to deal with my emotions because I am very reluctant to ask people for help. I always do this thing where I bury my feelings deep inside of me and never show it to people because I don’t want them to lose sleep over me. Most of the time I try to deal with my problems on my own and try not to involve anyone else in the problematic side of my life. My stubbornness and pride gets in the way of fixing my problems, much like how Odysseus had ran into problems because of his stubbornness and pride.

Even though there are a lot of things holding me back from achieving my goal of creating balance in my life, I possess a lot of things that help and support me while on this journey. Like Odysseus, I have people who support me and somewhat admirable traits that aid me while I am in a tough position.

I have a lot of qualities that counter my stubborn, independent, and defensive traits. When it comes to the things that I want to accomplish and the goals I have, I am very determined to get them done. Much like how Odysseus always put everything he had into his goals and was determined to get home, I work very hard whenever I really want something. I also have a lot of integrity when it comes to how I am. I am very honest with myself and with the people around me, so usually I am able to recognize when something is wrong with me, the reason for why I feel that way, and why I need to fix whatever problem I am having. Because I have a good amount of integrity about myself, I also know that whenever I’m in distress I know I should ask for help and do therapeutic, healthy things instead of turning to other means of relieving my stress and agitation.

Another thing that helps me along my journey is the people who support me. My doctors and therapists are supportive of me and try to do the best they can with diagnosing and helping me treat my mental disorders. My friends are also extremely supportive and understanding of my struggles, and try to help me in any way they can. A lot of times I use my friends members as a way to vent about my feelings, and they always offer their sympathy and advice and guidance. My family is also very supportive of me. At first they didn’t really want to believe anything was wrong with me, but after being diagnosed and medicated, they try to help me and know how to handle me in my different phases and how to make sure I stay sane and happy.

Even though the journey I have ahead of me is a difficult one to travel, I know that with the support I have from my friends and family and the drive I have to get better will help me through it. There will always be temptations along the way of this journey and distractions that will hold me back from being happy, but I know that eventually I will become prudent and have balance in my life. Similar to Odysseus’ long and painful journey, it may take many years and a lot of trials and tribulations for me to finally reach my destination, but I know that one day I will eventually be in peace with myself, be able to control my emotions and have a balanced life.

Synopsis of Books 9-10, 11, 21-23

Book 9

            Odysseus and his men land on the island of the Lotus-eaters, where the people who live there give them lotus fruit. The lotus fruit makes all of the men forget that they want to go home and cause them to stay on the island for a long time. Odysseus gets him and his men off the island and sail away. They land on the island of the Cyclopes, the son of the sea-god Poseidon. Odysseus and his men wander into the Cyclopes’ cave, where they eat his food and get eaten by the Cyclopes in return. Odysseus and his men escape the Cyclopes’ island by blinding him and then sneaking away under the bellies of the Cyclopes’ herd of sheep. Blinding the Cyclopes makes Poseidon angry, and guarantees Odysseus and his men an even harder journey back home.

Book 10

            Odysseus and his men sail to the island of the wind-god, Aeolus. He helps Odysseus by giving him a bag of winds. Using the western wind, Odysseus and his men arrive close enough to Ithaca to see it, but are then set back even further because of Odysseus’ jealous, greedy shipmates. Odysseus and his men eventually land on another island, the island of Circe, a witch. She lures in some of Odysseus’ men into her palace and turns them into pigs. Odysseus goes to find and rescue them, and with the help of Hermes, is able to avoid Circe’s magic. Circe makes Odysseus stay with her for a year as her lover, but eventually lets them go with advice on how to get home.

Book 11

            Odysseus travels to the River Styx in the underworld to find the blind prophet, Tiresias. With the help of Circe’s advice, Odysseus attracts the dead and finds Tiresias. Tiresias tells Odysseus about his fate and warns him about what he should do to have a smoother ride home.

Book 21

            Odysseus has returned home alone disguised as a beggar. Odysseus reveals his identity to two of his most trusted followers and asks them to help him in return for treating them and being a part of the royal family. Penelope has announced to all her potential suitors that she will marry the man who wins her contest. The rules of the contest are to string Odysseus’ bow and shoot through a line of twelve axes. All of the suitors try to string the bow but fail at doing so. Odysseus steps up to string the bow, and succeeds in stringing it and shooting it through all the axes.

Book 22

            After he wins the competition, his disguise disappears. With the help of his goddess, Athena, Odysseus and he and his son kill every suitor in the kingdom. He then proceeds to kill all the unfaithful women servants he has and take back his kingdom.

Book 23

            Penelope goes to see Odysseus and when she sees him, she faints. When she comes to, she finds Odysseus in front of her again, but doesn’t believe that he is really who he is. She thinks that the gods are playing another trick on her. She tells Odysseus that she needs help moving the bed back to the bedroom, a lie that only Odysseus could know the truth to. Odysseus gets mad and says that it was impossible to move the bed unless it was cut from the tree he grew around it. With the answer that she wanted, Penelope embraces him. Everyone is eventually appeased and lives happily ever after.

Book Reviews, Review

“Nineteen Minutes” by Jodi Picoult

Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult

1. Plot

The novel, “Nineteen Minutes,” by Jodi Picoult, is about the people involved and affected by a school shooting, the events that lead up to it, and the events that happen after it. The plot is very complex, as it is not in sequential or chronological order. Sometimes a chapter starts out in the present and in the middle of a chapter, it jumps to the past and then back to the present again. The book jumps around to and from the past and the present. Sometimes a chapter starts out in the present and in the middle of a chapter, it jumps to the past and then back to the present again. This technique is effective in showing how events that happened in the past can cause different outcomes in the future.

The novel starts out by describing a normal day in the life of multiple characters living in Sterling, Massachusetts- Alex Cormier (a judge), her daughter (Josie), Patrick Ducharme (a detective), Lacy Houghton (a midwife), her son (Peter Houghton), and a random student at Sterling High (Zoe Patterson). Within the middle of the first chapter, the author thrusts the reader into the event of the shooting and leads the reader through what is happening through the eyes of Patrick Ducharme. As the chaos unfolds and everyone is running out of the school, Patrick pushes his way through multilpe injured and dead bodies and screaming students into a locker room where he spots the shooter, Peter Houghton, on the ground and ready to kill himself. Patrick manages to apprehend Peter and the police arrest him. Patrick bends down to observe the only two other bodies in the locker room. One of the bodies is a popular hockey jock, Matt Royston, and the other body is Matt’s girlfriend, Josie Cormier. He notices that one of the bodies move. Josie Cormier, who passed out and can’t remember any of the events that happened in the locker room, is carried out of the school by Patrick.

The next chapter describes back-story of Lacy Houghton, a kind and caring midwife, and her family (her husband Lewis, her toddler Joey, and her newborn baby Peter). She meets and befriends then-public defender, Alex Cormier, through helping Alex with carrying her unwanted baby. Alex was impregnated and tossed aside by her older married professor, Logan Rourke. At first, Alex doesn’t want anything to do with her baby, but after great consideration and consultation from Lacy, she decides to keep her baby and the chapter ends with her giving birth to her daughter, Josie.

The third chapter jumps back to the events that happen directly after the shooting. Patrick tries to stay composed as he directs the medics, EMTs, and policemen on what to do concerning the shooting. The perspective of the novel switches to Alex, who learns about the shooting at her daughter’s high school, and leaves her courtroom to go to the school. The perspective switches to John Eberhard, a victim of the shooting, who struggles to get help, but falls two stories out of a window to his death. The book switches to attorney general, Diana Leven, as she assesses the crime scene and tries to deal with the media. The novel switches to the perspective of Lacy Houghton, the mother of Peter Houghton, as she desperately tries to locate her son, and painfully finds out that her son was the shooter. The novel switches to the perspective of Patrick as he interrogates Peter Houghton. He doesn’t get any answers from Peter with his questions, but as Patrick leaves he hears Peter whisper, “They started it,” (55).  Patrick goes back to the crime scene, where he finds out that one of the victims, Matt Royston, is the only victim shot twice, and that Peter Houghton had the makings of a pipe bomb in his car. Lacy Houghton goes home to search her son’s room and to try and get rid of the evidence that might hurt him, finding fertilizer and pipes in his closet. She is too late to get rid of the evidence as the police knock on her door, having a search warrant to search the premises. Jordan McAfee, an attorney, receives a call from Lewis Houghton, Peter’s father, and decides to defend Peter in the case. The chapter ends with Patrick visiting the hospital to see the girl he saved, Josie, and finds out that Alex (the judge) is her mother.

The next chapter describes the relationship between Josie and Peter when they were children. It is immediately addressed that on the first day of kindergarten, Peter gets bullied by having his lunch and lunch box thrown out of the bus by a group of older students. Luckily, Josie, his then-best friend, offers him consolation. He gets scorned by his mother for “losing” his lunch box, and then responds with “I’m not Joey,” when compared by his parents to his older, All-American brother. Alex picks her daughter up after finding out that she beat up another kid for bullying Peter. Alex reprimands her daughter for being violent, but applauds her for standing up for her friend. Lacy talks to Peter’s teacher after finding out that he is being bullied and discovers that his teacher isn’t really handling the problem effectively. The teacher encourages Peter to stand up and retaliate for himself and encourages Lacy to teach her son to do the same. Lacy, though she doesn’t want to, tells Peter that if he doesn’t stand up for himself, then he can’t play with Josie anymore. Alex, in the meantime, works to become a judge and goes through an application process. After being chosen to be the county judge, Alex finds it hard to adjust to being a judge in and out of the courtroom, always having to act superior and socially acceptable. The chapter ends with Lewis Houghton, Peter’s father, teaching Peter about guns and how to handle them.

The next chapter is about the day after the shooting. Peter is in jail. Jordan McAfee meets his client in the jail cell, only to find that Peter is unresponsive and only asks “How many did I get?” Lacy and Lewis try to figure out what has happened in their lives and are interrogated by the police. Josie gets released from the hospital and finds out that her boyfriend, Matt, is dead and about the other victims of the shootings. Alex tries to bond with her daughter, but it is revealed that their relationship is strenuous. Patrick visits testing labs and looks over the evidence gathered about Peter and the shooting. He finds out that Peter had four guns, two shotguns that weren’t used, and two pistols (one of them was only shot once, the other one was used for the rest of the shootings). He also finds a Sterling Middle School yearbook with multiple faces circled in black marker. Only one face is crossed out with the words, “Let live,” underneath it-Josie Cormier.

The arraignment about the Peter Houghton case happens, and Peter and Jordan plead not-guilty to all of the charges. Josie attempts suicide by almost swallowing multiple sleeping pills, but doesn’t go through with it. Matt Royston’s funeral is held and Josie breaks down in the front of the altar when she is asked to speak, repeating “I’m sorry,” to the congregation. Peter deals with being held in a cell with maximum security. Patrick goes to the Cormiers’ house to interrogate Josie about how she knew Peter. She responds that Peter stood out in school that Matt and other people bullied him, and that she and him weren’t friends. Lacy visits Peter in jail and finds that he is changed and not the son she knows, but she isn’t going to let go of him.

Patrick watches a video of what Peter did in the cafeteria during the shooting: blinding shooting into the cafeteria, walking past dead bodies, taking the time to eat a bowl of cereal, and then standing back up to walk out of the cafeteria and going on to shooting more people. Patrick also finds out that during the shooting, Peter hacked into the school program and had every computer say, “Ready or not, here I come,” on the screen. Jordan spends more time with Peter, learning that Peter feels no remorse for what he has done and considers himself the victim.

The next chapter goes back into the past where Josie and Peter were still friends. Josie saves Peter yet again after being socially harassed. Josie and Peter watch the events of 9/11 on TV, and their mothers pick them up from school. A few days later, Peter is harassed again by the more popular kids on his soccer team, especially Matt Royston, and is called homosexual. He becomes friends with one of the other non-popular kids, Deek Markowitz, through them being bench-warmers on the school’s soccer team. Peter’s mom publicly humiliates Peter by asking the coach to put Peter in the next game, causing the other kids to make fun of him, but Derek consoles him. Josie becomes friends with one of the popular girls, Courtney Ignacio, through a school assignment. Joey, Peter’s then-alive older brother, is shown to be smarter, more popular, and more athletically skilled than Peter. Peter is compared to Joey and Joey takes part in bullying his younger brother. Peter, wanting to feel accepted, publicly humiliates a girl in his class, Dolores Keating. He sees that she has her first period, and begins to taunt her, being followed by the other students, and is temporarily accepted as being one of them. When Dolores comes back to school, everyone in her class plans to drop a tampon one by one on her desk to taunt her even further. All of the popular kids (Drew, Matt, Courtney) drop a tampon onto her desk, but when it gets to Peter’s turn, he refuses to bully her, tries to defend her, and is harassed by the other students. Josie, still having a tampon in her hand, joins the popular kids by “accidentally” dropping the tampon in her hand onto Dolores’ desk. When Peter confronts Josie about her changing personality, she chooses to drop Peter from her life and walks away.

The novel jumps to the present, where it has been a week since the shooting. Josie and Lacy are emotionally unstable, both of them losing a loved one. Other citizens of Sterling harass Jordan McAfee for defending Peter. Alex tries to bond with Josie, even though most of her attempts are futile and strained. Jordan McAfee’s wife, Selena, who is his detective, interrogates Lacy Houghton. It is revealed that she and her husband used to compare Peter to Joey and that Joey died in a car accident a year ago. It is also revealed that Lacy allowed her sons to have privacy because she didn’t like searching through their things and finding things she didn’t want to see. She found drugs, a spoon, and a needle in Joey’s room after he died.

Josie has to go back to school, which has relocated to a temporary middle school. She finds it hard to adjust back to what was “normal” and to be with her old friends without being reminded of her dead friends. Jordan talks to Peter again, and finds out that Peter hated his older brother because Joey never stood up for him, Joey participated in the bullying against Peter, Peter was always being compared to Joey, and that Joey had told everyone that Peter was adopted to avoid being accused of being related to each other. Jordan, with the help of his wife, decide to try and apply the “battered woman syndrome” to Peter, saying that he was mentally unstable the day he had shot everyone because of all of the bullying he endured.

The novel goes back to a year before the shooting happened. Peter and Josie take a job at the same copying store. They become close to each other again, but Josie always seems to remain slightly distant because of her social status. Peter shows a graph of “Popularity” for his math class, and unknowingly humiliates Josie. Though publicly embarrassed, Matt Royston stands up for her and they become a couple, saving her from social turmoil. Peter is ignored by Josie, which leads him to set the garbage bin outside on fire to see if Josie would save him. Peter is fired from his job, and asks Josie to help him get his job back. Matt catches Peter talking to Josie and beats him up. Josie prevents Matt from beating Peter up badly, but when she tries to get Matt to stop picking on people, he gets angry and tells her to choose between him and the losers

Peter creates a videogame about hunting people. He uses his yearbook and circles the faces of people he wants to base the “prey” characters off of in his videogame. Josie searches to meet her father, only to find out that he doesn’t want her in his life and bribes her with money to go away. In her grief and wanting to be loved, she lets Matt coax her into having sex with him. She and Matt go to a party, and Matt gets angry when she embarrasses him in front of his friends. As they are about to leave, he roughly grabs her and tells her to never make him look like an idiot again, and then tells her he loves her. Peter, having a trouble identifying what his sexuality is, goes to a gay pow-wow party at a club. He gets sexually advanced upon by an older gay man, but is saved by his closeted gay teacher, Mr. McCabe (also a victim in the shooting). Mr. McCabe tells Peter that if he ever needs to talk to anyone, he would be there for him.

Peter gets a job at the library at school. One day, when he is transporting books in the elevator, Josie, having broken her foot, takes the elevator with him. The elevator breaks, and they are forced to spend time together for a few hours. They bond again, talking about why Josie chooses to act the way she does. Peter finds out that Josie broke her foot by Matt pushing her when they were having a fight. Through a dare, Josie and Peter kiss. Through this, Peter understands that he isn’t gay; he just never found the right girl (Josie). The elevator doors open and Matt carries Josie away. Peter goes home and finds out Joey dies.

The next chapter is about Peter’s trial. Peter is convicted of 10 first-degree murders, and eighteen attempted-murders. Judge Cormier decides to take the case, even though she has some tie to it through her daughter. Patrick and Alex get closer through the case. Derek, Peter’s friend, tells the detectives that Josie and Peter used to be best friends. Lacy finds out that her husband has been visiting the graveyard every time he was supposed to visit his son in jail. They are at different ends about Peter; Lacy wants to love and try to hold onto Peter while Lewis doesn’t blame any of the parents who hate Peter, and wants to let go of him. Jordan talks to Peter about why he decided to shoot all of the people, and Peter said that they were all in the way of shooting the one person he wanted to kill the most- himself. Jordan consults with a famous psychologist, Mr. King, about whether or not the can apply “battered woman syndrome” to Peter. King says that a lot of the symptoms Peter had followed the “battered woman syndrome”. Patrick and Alex happen to see each other at a Chinese restaurant and get closer. Alex decides, with Patrick’s help, to withdraw herself from being the judge of the case. Jordan McCafee, not wanting Alex to be a part of the case, puts Josie on the witness list, not knowing that she was planning to withdraw herself from the case. As Alex and Josie bond, Alex and Patrick become romantically involved as well.

The novel goes back to the month before the shooting. Josie and Matt have sex without a condom. Peter asks his mother for help on how to tell someone (Josie) that he loves her. Lacy tells him to just outright tell the person he loves. Peter writes Josie an e-mail pouring out his feelings for her. He sends it just as Courtney Ignacio opens up Josie’s e-mail. Courtney forwards the e-mail to everyone in the school, but Josie doesn’t know. Josie finds out that her period is late. Josie is forced to realize that her “friends” are only her friends if she ridicules other people, not other people ridiculing her. Courtney tells Peter that Josie is over Matt and wants to be with Peter. Peter goes up to the popular table, and Josie’s “friends” make fun of Peter and his letter. Matt pulls Peter’s pants and underwear down in front of the whole cafeteria. Josie feels horrible, but allows everything around her to happen. The next day, Josie pretends to be sick and searches up ways to terminate pregnancies, and gets a positive pregnancy test. Peter finds guns in his neighbor’s (who was en ex-cop) house. Josie tells Matt she’s pregnant, and then is relieved when she miscarries by following one of the abortion methods she read on the Internet. She tells Matt she miscarries, and he is overjoyed.

The next chapter jumps back to the present. Lacy tries to hold onto Peter. Josie visits the graveyard and has a “conversation” with Matt’s grave. Patrick was sent by Josie’s mother to watch her, and he consoles her and tells her that she isn’t alone because she has her mom with her. Peter’s trial starts. A slideshow of all of the bodies found in the school are shown, and Peter feels remorseful. Josie sees Peter’s mother at the trial, but isn’t mean to her and instead tells Lacy that Peter is her friend. Dr. King, the psychologist, tells the jury that Peter had “battered wife syndrome” and post-traumatic stress disorder, which led him to shoot people without realizing what he was doing. Peter asks to give a testimony in the court, and Jordan reluctantly allows it. Jordan rehearses Peter’s responses, but when Peter gets up to the courtroom, he makes a mistake and points himself out as the bad guy. As Jordan McAfee struggles to recoil and recover the case, he decides to try to interrogate Josie one more time about the case. During the interrogation, Josie sees Selena, Jordan’s wife, drop their son’s baby bag, which makes Josie remember all of the events that happen in the locker room when Matt dies. She tells Jordan that Matt tried to shoot Peter first, and then Peter shot Matt.

The events of the shooting day are revealed. Peter wakes up, drops his glasses onto the keyboard of his computer, and a screen pops up of the message that was spammed out to everyone in the school. He breaks apart at that point. He goes to school and detonates a bomb in Matt Royston’s car in the parking lot, distracting students as we walks into the school with his guns. He passed Zoe Patterson and shot her. He shot Alyssa Carr in the hallway and went into the cafeteria and shot Angela Phlug, Maddie Shaw, Courtney Ignacio, Haley Weaver, Brady Pryce, Natalie Zlenko, Emma Alexis, Jada Knight, and Richard Hicks. He sits down and eats a bowl of Rice Krispies. After finishing his bowl of cereal, he gets back up and leaves the cafeteria, shooting Jared Weiner, Whit Obermeyer, Grace Murtaugh, and Lucia Ritolli. He goes into the boys’ bathroom and shoots Steven Babourias, Min Horuka, and Topher McPhee. He goes into the girls’ bathroom and shoots Kaitlyn Harvey.  He goes upstairs and shoots Ed McCabe, John Eberhard, and Trey MacKenzie. When he gets in the gym he shoots Austin Prokiov, Coach Dusty Spears, Noah James, Justin Friedman, and Drew Girard. Finally, Peter goes into the locker room.

When Josie goes up to testify, she is asked to “tell the truth” and everything will be fine. The next part of the chapter relives the events that happened in the locker room. Matt shoved Josie roughly behind a wooden bench. Peter opens the locker room doors, and Josie screams, causing Peter to drop his bag full of the guns. One of the guns slides over to Josie’s foot, and she picks it up. Peter tells Josie to not do anything and let him shoot Matt. Matt tells Josie to “Fucking shoot [Peter]…Are you fucking stupid?” and Peter tells Matt to not talk to Josie like that. Matt tells Josie again to shoot, and she shoots Matt in the stomach. Sobbing, she turns to Peter, and asks him to help her. Peter shoots Matt in the head, and whispers, “’Don’t tell,’: I won’t share your secrets, if you don’t share mine.”

The courtroom erupts in chaos and Patrick arrives a few minutes later with the evidence that show that Matt couldn’t have fired at Peter; Josie was telling the truth about her firing the gun at Matt. When Jordan confronts Peter about Josie’s statement, he says that, “You don’t break a promise to a friend.” Peter is convicted of eight first-degree murders and two second-degree murders.

After the trial, Lacy gets rid of Peter’s stuff. A month after the trial, Peter commits suicide by stuffing a sock down his throat. Sometime after the trial, Alex and Patrick are together and expecting their first child. They walk through the halls of the new Sterling High, a school with better security and memorials for the dead or injured students. Peter is dead and Josie was charged as an accessory to second-degree murder and accepted a plea for manslaughter with five years served. The novel ends with Patrick and Alex walking through the corridors of the hallways.

2. Point of View/Perspective

The point of view of the novel is in third person, following multiple people that are involved and affected by the shootings. Lacy Houghton, Patrick Ducharme, Peter Houghton, Lewis Houghton, Alex Cormier, Courtney Ignacio, Josie Cormier, Zoe Patterson, Jordan McAfee, and Diana Leven are the people from which the novel is told. Most of the novel is told through Alex, Patrick, Lacy, Peter, and Josie’s point of view. The third-person perspective of multiple people is affective in showing how one event can be experienced and dealt with through multiple people. It gives the novel a certain amount of depth, because you are able to experience from a bunch of people’s perspectives instead of just following one character that might not relate to you that well. It feels more real having many people react to one event, because usually when a story is told, it is told through one person’s perspective and the characters that affect the main character never have a chance to say how they feel about the situation. An example of the multiple perspectives in the novel is near the beginning, when Alex Cormier and Lacy Houghton are interacting with each other and the things they do after they’ve interacted. Lacy meets Alex, and decides to “keep an eye on her” because she is a new mother who doesn’t want her baby. After Alex meets Lacy, she is at first reluctant to get to know her because Lacy was just so positive.

 3. Protagonist

It is hard to pin-point the protagonist of the novel because there are so many conflicts within the novel and so many complex characters introduced in the plot. The characters with the most conflicts and the most interaction with the other characters would be Josie Cormier and Peter Houghton. They were best friends when they were little through their mothers. When they were little they even said that they were going to get married and often played house with each other during kindergarten break time. Then, as they grew up, they drifted away when Josie decided to become popular. They become close again through work, and then Peter’s inability to be “normal” causes Josie to shy away from him. They become close again through spending time together in a locked elevator, but Josie slips back into her mask of popularity and doesn’t pay attention to Peter. When Peter confesses his love to Josie, she feels bad, but is too caught up with her image to show that she cares about Peter. Peter writes “Let live” underneath Josie’s picture after changing how he feels about her. When Peter is convicted, Peter asks how Josie is. Josie asks how Peter looks during the trial. The truth comes out that Peter and Josie were in cahoots with Matt Royston’s death.

Josie struggled to fit in and pretend to be someone else. She was in an abusive relationship with her boyfriend, Matt Royston, and got impregnated by him and then had a miscarriage. Her mother isn’t particularly close to her, and she is confused about how she feels about her mom’s lover, Patrick. Josie also has a father who doesn’t want her to be a part of his life.

Peter was bullied throughout his entire school life. His best friend Josie was ripped away from him because of social pressure. He was constantly being called homosexual and other mean names by many of his peers, including his own older brother. He had access to guns and played and listened to violent media. He was being constantly compared to his brother, Joey. He was in love with a girl he could never have, and could never quite fit in because he did things that weren’t socially acceptable. He is described by his mother as “tender, almost to the point of being raw. It took someone like Josie…to protect him” (78).

4. Setting

The setting takes place between sometime in the early 1990’s (when the children were born/babies) and March 6, 2008 (453). It takes place in Grafton County, Sterling, New Hampshire (5, 9). There are multiple small settings within the bigger settings- classrooms, a club, the Cormier house, a Chinese restaurant, a high school, the Houghton house, a cemetery, a jail, Sterling High School, the Courtroom, a middle school, etc. The contrast between the settings of the earlier events and the later events are that the earlier events usually happen to occur in very common places that most small towns (like Vancouver, Washington, for example) have. The events that are normal and slightly positive mostly occur in the daylight in places like the kindergarten that Josie and Peter played in and the Chinese restaurant that Alex and Patrick talked in. The events that are negative or life-changing seem to occur during the night and in places that are usually associated with negative things like when Lewis and Lacy were torn between what they wanted to do about their son in the raining cemetery, or the events that happen in the cell where Peter is held. The fact that there are so many different “normal” settings of the novel show how the events of the novel can happen anywhere, including somewhere that is “normal”. The different “normal” settings also make the novel seem more realistic, because when I imagine a local grocery store or a copying store, I know what to imagine or think about because I have been in places like that.

5. Theme

One of the major themes addressed in this novel is the idea of fitting in. Almost every single character in the novel experiences some conflict with fitting in. Alex Cormier, for example, has to constantly act like a judge, even when she is in private, because anyone could be watching her or judging how she acts. This is shown by the event where Josie accuses her mother of using her “Judge Voice” and switching it between the way she talks to Josie and the way she talks to the waiter (152). Peter Houghton experiences being a social outcast no matter what he does. An example of Peter trying to fit in is when he began to taunt a girl who had her period, and then later trying to stop the taunts and trying to stand up for her, causing him to be knocked down again. Josie has to sacrifice who she is and has to be a part of an abusive relationship in order to be accepted as someone else (someone popular). She is constantly struggling to figure out if she is truly happy being accepted, or if she is truly happy being herself. Peter’s older brother, Joey, has to sacrifice the relationship he has with his brother in order to be popular and maintain his social status. Zoe Patterson’s short part in the novel talks about how she was thinking about her braces and what would happen if she tried to kiss a boy with braces. She goes on to talk about how humiliating it would be if their braces got stuck together, and how she could probably temporarily join a convent because of her ugly-looking braces (19, 20). Even the math teacher, Ed McCabe, talks about fitting in. He was a closeted gay man with a gay lover. He didn’t want the students or the faculty to know about his sexual orientation because he knew what they would say about him and he was scared about what would happen.

The author addresses the issue of ‘fitting in’ in an interview located at the very back of the book:

“Q: In the acknowledgements, you write: ‘To the thousands of kids out there who are a little bit different, a little bit scared, a little bit un-popular: this one’s for you.’ What might readers, particularly young readers, take from this book and apply to their own lives?

A: If I could say one thing to the legions of teens out there who wake up every morning and wish they didn’t have to go to school, it would be this – and I’m saying it as both a mom and writer: Stay the course. You will find someone like you; you will fit in one day. And know that even the cool kids, the popular kids, worry that someone might find out their secret: that they worry about fitting in, just like you do.”

6. Title

The title, “Nineteen Minutes,” is addressed within the novel. On page 5, there is a short excerpt describing what someone could do in nineteen minutes:

“In nineteen minutes, you can mow the front lawn, color your hair, watch a third of a hockey game. In nineteen minutes, you can bake scones or get a tooth filled by a dentist; you can fold laundry for a family of five.

Nineteen minutes is how long it took the Tennessee Titans to sell out of tickets to the play-odds. It’s the length of a sitcom, minus the commercials. It’s the driving distance from the Vermont border to the town of Sterling, New Hampshire.

In nineteen minutes, you can order a pizza and get it delivered. You can read a story toa child or have your oil changed. You can walk a mile. You can sew a hem.

In nineteen minutes, you can stop the world, or you can just jump off of it.

In nineteen minutes, you can get revenge.”

There is another excerpt in the novel addressing the title on page 363:

“’This entire spree lasted nineteen minutes in the life of Peter Houghton, but the evidence will show that its effects will last forever…the deaths of nineteen others at Sterling High School…as Peter Houghton knows…in nineteen minutes, you can bring the world to a screeching halt.’”

I think that the title, “Nineteen Minutes” is appropriate for the novel because the issue of time is constantly addressed in the novel (the chapters usually address what time it is-the past of the present-and what is happening during that time) and because the number 19 is a significant number in the novel. It took nineteen minutes for Peter Houghton to go on his shooting rampage, killing or wounding nineteen people at Sterling High School. The novel ends when Josie is nineteen.

7. Personal Recommendation

Personally, I think that this book would be a great asset to the AP Curriculum. Granted, it has some suggestive themes (drinking, unprotected sex, revenge, murder, etc.), but it deals with each conflict so beautifully and complexly that it would be great to study how the author views each conflict that is brought up in the book. There are some great points in the book about the universal themes of ‘fitting in’, masks and different personalities, the justice system, different mental diseases, the domino affect, and how a few acts of treating others negatively can cause a great outcome. Almost every single character in the book is relatable and feels real, and they are each complex and have their own personality traits and backgrounds to them. The conflicts are woven in with each other so brilliantly that all of the little things that could be over-looked in the book add up to the final conflict and connect to everything else that happens. The plot structure is pretty confusing at first, but it is easy to get immediately intrigued by the book and it hooks you i