It’s been a few years since I’ve any Picoult. I was previously a fan. This book, though… It gave me some agita.
First of all, there is a family of three that are sort of the center of the book. I hate them all with the passion of a thousand suns.
There is a 15 year old girl, Wren, who is in the clinic to get birth control. Her aunt is with her. Her father is the hostage negotiator. They are all horrible.
Wren is the absolute center of everyone’s universe and it shows. She’s so infantilized by her family that she can’t do anything for herself. When the shooting starts a person realizes that she has a cell phone on her and they tell her to call 911. She does not. She texts her father. He doesn’t answer because he’s busy but instead of then calling 911 she proceeds to leave him over 50 text messages. Not a helper. She endangers people over and over and does in fact get people killed.
The father is an arrogant jerk. Once he realizes that he has family in the building he doesn’t tell anyone. He knows that he is required to do this and to step aside as negotiator for very good reasons. He does not because he feels that this shouldn’t apply to him.
Also, (I feel the need to shout this part)
YOU DO NOT OWN YOUR DAUGHTER’S SEXUALITY!
I got no tolerance left for this trope. I don’t want to hear about how you wanted to beat up a three year old boy who held hands with your daughter in preschool. I don’t want to hear about how you want to know who your daughter’s boyfriend is so you can intimidate him.
Then this fool is talking to his ex-wife on the phone and says, “Take care of yourself” when he gets done. He’s all proud of himself because he considers this a horrible insult to say to a woman because it implies that her man can’t provide for her. First of all, there is no human in the universe who would interpret that statement that way. Second?
Take it away, Emma.
He can get out of my sight until he can act right.
The aunt thinks she has some huge secret that is obvious from the first few chapters. She gets shot (not a spoiler for reasons we will discuss) but all she can do while she is laying on the floor bleeding into her chest is mouth Wren’s name because Wren is a pretty, fragile princess who is the center of the universe in case you forgot. (Don’t worry, they will discuss this ad nauseum in the book. You won’t forget for long.)
Personally, I was driving my car around listening to the audiobook, yelling, “Someone needs to shoot Wren!” for days. But, no one shoots Wren. I did not have any hope whatsoever because of the warped structure of the book. It starts a few hours after the shooting when all the hostages are released except for Wren. The father then trades places with her so he is the only remaining hostage. (In case you didn’t know, she is the center of his universe.) From here it jumps back and hour in time and tells the story. Then it jumps back another hour. You literally start out knowing who lives and who dies and then meet them all as you move backwards in time. I keep trying to figure out why this choice was made. It doesn’t make sense to me. If you took the chapters as written and just rearranged them you’d have a much more powerful story. You would meet all the characters. The author does a good job of making you care about everyone else (except Wren and her family). If she had built up all this care and empathy for the characters and then they were killed unexpectedly it would have been much more effective. You would have the suspense of hoping that the characters were going to make it. Now you find out about people and think, “She was a nice lady. Too bad people have been stepping over body since chapter 1.”