Jodi Picoult, Ishmael Beah
This is a week for kids with guns. In Jodi Picoults new novel, Nineteen Minutes, Peter Houghton, a 17-year-old who gets bullied one time too many, shoots up people at his high school (the title refers to how long it takes him to commit the bloody rampage). Though shes written more than a dozen best-sellers, Picoult is one of those underappreciated authors who has had a steady, solid career. Shes not exactly fashionable, but she writes sympathetic, ungimmicky prose that is sensitive to the evolving relationships between kids and parents, and between kids and kids, as filtered through the lens of todays Big (capital B) moral issues. Her last book, My Sisters Keeper, for example, was about a girl who was conceived to provide body parts for her older, leukemic sister.
If Picoults novels represent a kind of thriller of social responsibility, Ishmael Beahs A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier is a book about social and moral, political and emotional disaster. Beah tells his true story about being forced into service as a child soldier in Sierra Leones army after the death of his parents. For three years, he killed more people than he could count, until UNICEF rescued him. Beah moved to the United States in 1998, graduated from Oberlin College in 2004, and now lives in New York City.
Jodi Picoult reads Nineteen Minutes at Vromans, 695 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena; Thurs., April 5, 7 p.m. (626) 449-5320. Ishmael Beah reads A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier as part of the ALOUD at Central Library Series at 630 W. Fifth St., dwntwn.; Thurs., April 5, 7 p.m. (213) 228-7025.
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