If you have read my “About” page on this blog you will know that Jodi Picoult is my favourite author. If you haven’t, well now you know 🙂
I stumbled across my first Jodi Picoult book after reading a review for her then-new book “Change of Heart” in a magazine. I really liked the sound of it and brought it immediately. I read the book within a couple of days and found it really hard to put it down. Since then I have been hooked.
Jodi’s books are unlike any other I have read, and I find it really hard to put them into any type of genre. I feel they really challenge you to think “what would I do if I was in that situation”. I have read all of her books and although Jodi is my favourite author, there are still some of her books that I didn’t enjoy as much as the others. Below is a list of her books in order from my favourite to least favourite, with a quick synopsis on each one:
Probably Jodi’s most well known book, it is about a family whose two daughters are constantly in and out of hospital. One of them is sick, the other isn’t. Since Anna was born, she has undergone countless number of transfusions and surgeries to help keep her older sister, Kate, alive. Kate has leukemia. And Anna was conceived through IVF to be a perfect bone marrow match for Kate. Anna has happily gone through with these procedures to help her sister, who she has a close bond to. But as Anna hits her teenage years, she begins to question if this is how she wants to be known as, as her sisters donor. Anna then goes on to sue her parents to the right to choose if she wants to help Kate.
This is an incredible story, told from different perspective through each chapter. You can’t help but feel torn. You feel for Anna, Kate and their parents. Not forgetting their son Jesse, who is a tearaway desperate for any attention from his parents, and absolutely hates feeling completely useless as his two younger sisters are going through unimaginable procedures.
It is completely heartbreaking and without giving anything away, be prepared to have your tissues handy at the end. I couldn’t stop crying. So much so, with two pages left to go, I had to put the book down and compose myself. This is certainly Jodi at her best.
Side Note: I have also seen the film My Sister’s Keeper, and I did enjoy it. I would have enjoyed it more if I hadn’t read the book first, as the film missed parts out and completely changed the ending, which I was very disappointed at.
This is a book written with Jodi’s daughter, Samantha. With the idea originally coming from Samantha. Unlike her other books, this book can be easily defined into the Tween / Young Adult genre and to some extent Fantasy. This is about a teenage girl who hates school as much as she loves books. And like most book lovers, Delilah has her favourite, a fairytale aimed at children called “Between The Lines”. She is embarrassed about her choice of her favourite book, and she dreads her super cool classmates finding out about it. Delilah can’t stop reading it feeling that something deeper is going on within the book. And she’s absolutely right. The handsome Prince Oliver is not just a one-dimensional character. He’s alive and is desperate to stop acting out the book over and over again. Oliver and Delilah become friends but can their two seperate worlds can ever become one?
Whilst a little far fetch in places, I completely loved the book and the idea of a characters in the book being alive. I easily lost myself in this book. Although it doesn’t ask unanswerable questions and make you think like the rest of Jodi’s books, I still enjoyed and thought it was a perfect introduction to Jodi’s work for the younger audience who will hopefully grow up wanting to read her other work.
June’s first husband was killed in a car crash. Remarkably, their daughter Elizabeth, was uninjured in the same crash. June finds love again with the policeman, Kurt, that rescued them, and six years later they are a happy family, expecting a baby together. Her world comes crashing down again, when 7 year old Elizabeth and Kurt are murdered by the Shay, the workman they had welcomed in to their home. Shay is New Hampshire’s first death row prisoner in 69 years. As the years pass by and Shay is waiting for his day to die, his last request is to donate his heart after his execution to the sister of his victim, Claire, who is now eleven. Shay believes that this is the last and only way he can redeem himself, and without a new heart, Claire will die.
My first Jodi Picoult book, and it was love at first read, and will always be a special book as it introduced me to her work. This is an incredible story, like the majority of her stories, told by different characters perspectives. The anguish that is felt by June as she learns of what Shay wants to do for her daughter and the media attention surrounding Shay as they call him a Messiah following miracles he has performed in prison would be too much for a mother and wife of his victims to take. But like in most of Jodi’s books things aren’t always what they appear to be. Parts of the story are a little unbelievable, but I personally didn’t think it took anything away from it overall. This book really reminded me of the film The Green Mile.
Zoe has spent a long ten years trying to fall pregnant, suffering numerous miscarriage and having infertility issues, until she finally becomes pregnant and her dreams start to come true. But as she reaches her seventh month of the pregnancy, she loses the baby (during her baby shower). As Max, Zoe’s husband, and Zoe come to terms with loss of their baby, Zoe is desperate to try again. Max doesn’t feel he can through another failed pregnancy and see Zoe’s heart break again. This results in the end of their marriage. As Zoe throws herself into her work as a music therapist, she becomes closer to Vanessa, who is a guidance counselor, with their relationship moving from business, to friendship and much to Zoe’s surprise, love. Zoe and Vanessa start thinking about having a family and she remembers the frozen embryos that weren’t used by her and Max. After finding peace at the bottom of the bottle, Max is redeemed by the church who have vowed to fight the “homosexual agenda” which is threatening the traditional family values. It then turns personal for Max when Zoe asks for his permission to raise his unborn child with Vanessa.
This was a great book, openly exploring peoples views and perceptions of same sex relationships, aswell as the torment and emotional heartbreak of losing a baby. Understanding that Max has a choice whether he wants Zoe and her new partner to use their embryos, you couldn’t help but wanting to knock some sense into him, and it felt that Max hadn’t come to terms that he and Zoe couldn’t have a child. However, I wondered how Zoe would have felt if Max had wanted to use their frozen embryos with his new partner.
Peter Houghton, a 17 year old high school student, turns up to school one day with a mission. To stop the bullies once and for all, and succeeds by killing 10 fellow students. Since his first day at school, Peter has suffered from verbal and physical bullying from his classmates. His best friend, Josie, has succumbed to peer pressure and hangs around with the students bullying Peter. His parents find it difficult how their child has snapped, and examine their past actions to see if they could have stopped him or at least try to find out what has compelled their son to go to such extremes. Josie, a witness to the last few minutes of the her friend’s rampage, claims she can’t remember what happened. But who is she protecting?
This was the second book of Jodi’s I read and it lived up to my expectations after reading “Change of Heart”. It was quick paced, full of twists and secrets as you work through the story piecing together the puzzle of what actually happened. To begin with you can’t understand why Peter feels he has to go to such extremes, but Jodi successfully makes you feel sympathy for Peter, and realise that he is not totally to blame. Fortunately, this not something that we in the UK have experience of, but we have all seen the news to know that it does (albeit very rarely) happen in the US, and Jodi has worked hard to make this a very thought provoking book.
Charlotte and Sean’s daughter, Willow is born with severe osteogenesis imperfecta (brittle bone disease) which causes her to suffer from hundreds of broken bones as she grows up, meaning a lifetime of pain. As Willow grows, the family struggle to cover her medical expenses, and to make ends meet. Charlotte thinks she has found the answer. By declaring that she was failed by her obstetrician for not warning her in advance that Willow would be born severely disabled, the payouts that they will receive will cover Willow’s lifetime of medical treatment. But this would mean Charlotte would have to go to court and publicly claim that she would have terminated her pregnancy if she had known about Willow’s condition. Sean can not agree with his wife’s decision, knowing that Willow will hear everything that her parents say in the court room. To make matters worse, the obstetrician that Charlotte is prepared to sue, is also her best friend.
Now I did really enjoy this book, and completely understand why Charlotte felt that this was her and her families best way out. But what I didn’t understand is why they didn’t try to explain to Willow what was happening and that by suing the obstetrician, this would help her. However, I also do not understand the suing of the best friend, so I suppose that counter acts my argument. There is also another child in this story, Amelia, the older sister of Willow, who feels completely pushed out of the family and she can’t help but resent Willow (who is constantly the focus of their parents attention) even though she does love her little sister and feels guilty for resenting her.
Nina is a District Attorney that prosecutes crimes that tear families apart. Part of her job is help them through their nightmare journey, and sometimes the families don’t get the support from the legal system that they expect, as some criminals walk free. Nina never believes that she will have to go through that nightmare journey with her own family. But unfortunately she and her husband Caleb find out their 5 year old son, Nathaniel has been sexually abused. Their world completely collapses around them. Nina finds it very difficult to see the lines that seperate her family life to her professional one. Nina knows from experience the legal system doesn’t always work, but Nathaniel has stopped talking. Is she prepared to take justice into her own hands?
Possible one of the hardest themes Jodi has had to work on. The context of the story at times it is uncomfortable to read, but she has made sure that it isn’t over the top, but necessary to the story. The reaction, emotions and feelings from the people involved is very believable and you are gripped as we are taken through a court case to find out what is going to happen. I think everyone would have reacted the way Nina did.
The Hartes and Goldes have lived next door together for the past eighteen years. They had their children within months of one another, shared school runs, and even chicken pox. Parents and children are best friends and can’t remember when they weren’t part of one another lives. It’s unsurprising then that when their children hit high school, their relationship blossoms to something more. So the telephone call in the middle of the night from the hospital comes completely out of the blue, and no-one can believe the truth. Emily has died with a bullet wound to her head. Chris is injured but, hasn’t died. There is another bullet in the gun (that Chris stole from his fathers gun cabinet), which Chris desperately tells the police was meant for him. That it was meant to be a double suicide. Unfortunately, the police don’t believe him. And the lives that the Hartes and Goldes once knew, turn completely upside down as they try and piece together what happened that night.
For me, I was again completely hooked with this book. Desperate, like the families in this book, to know what happened to Emily and Chris and what drove them to want to commit suicide. Their relationship seemed very real, and you could feel Chris’ heart break after Emily’s death, and having to deal with the consequences as circumstantial evidence is found. Jodi’s research was amazing (as always) and she completely helped you to understand what 17 year olds feel.
Jack used to be a school teacher and coach for the girls soccer team, but due to student having a crush on him which got out of hand, Jack was without a job and his reputation was in shatters. After a very public ordeal which saw him in jail for eight months and no job to come back to after the sentence was up, Jack tries to start a new life in a small quiet village of Salem Falls. Having to take a completely different job from teaching, washing dishes at a local diner, he attempts to quietly to carry on with his life. But he falls in love with the diner’s owner, Addie. Believing he has run from his previous life, he couldn’t be happier. Until he receives some unwanted attention from a group of teenage girls. With his past now out in the open, he is once again accused of rape by one the teenage girls, the daughter of a very influential man of the town.
You can’t help but feel sorry for Jack. Especially as he feels he has found the woman he loves only to be accused of rape (again), after turning down the advances of teenage girl who has secrets of her own. A modern day witch hunt begins. You have to admire Addie’s determination to try and find out the truth about Jack, even though his accusations remind her of a past that she would rather forget.
Katie is 18 years old and lives in an Amish community. A dead baby a few hours old is found in her families barn, which shakes the community to its core. But the police find evidence that suggests that Katie, who is unmarried, is the babies mother, and the police believe due to circumstantial evidence that she killed the baby. Ellie is an attorney from Pennsylvania and is brought in to defend Katie,who denies ever giving birth. As two cultures collide, Ellie learns what it is like to live like the Amish and find they have a system of justice very different to what she is used to. She has to try and unravel the murder case, and get Katie to open up to her, so she can try and prevent Katie from going to jail.
This was one of the last books from Jodi’s back catalog that I read, as I didn’t think I would enjoy it and might be a bit boring. I was completely wrong. This book really surprised me and I was very interested in learning the different ways the Amish live compared to us (so much so that I try and read other books based on the Amish community when I can). At times I believed that Katie did have the baby and other times I didn’t. You understand why Katie completely denies having a baby as she is scared of being “shunned” by her family and community like it happened to her older brother who wanted to continue his studies and wanted more from his life other than being a farmer.
Jacob is a teenage boy that has Asperger’s Syndrome. He struggles to read social cues or how to express himself to others. He has a special focus on one subject, like most children with Asperger’s. In his case, it’s forensic analysis. Jacob always shows up at crime scenes, thanks to a police scanner which he keeps in his room, and tells the cops what they need to do… in which he is normally right. However, one day his tutor is found dead, and the police come to question him. Unfortunately for Jacob, all the usually behaviours of Asperger’s like not looking someone in the eye, stimulatory tics and twitches, inappropriate affect, can look a lot like someone who is guilty to the police, and Jacob finds himself accused of murder.
Like many of Jodi’s books I found this really interesting learning how Asperger’s Syndrome can effect someone in their every day life. Jacob takes everything literally which can be amusing throughout the book but when he is being questioned by the police can be very infuriating as to someone not suffering from Asperger’s you could easily explain to the police that you had no involvement and understand what they want from you. The only thing I didn’t understand was that if the police or the mother (who obviously knows her son takes everything literally) asked the right questions this could have been dealt with more quickly (but I suppose this would have been a very short book). The ending felt a little rushed and would loved it to have finished with a proper ending, rather than guessing what happened next.
Edward is living in Thailand, and has done for the past five years since an irreparable fight with his father, Luke. One day, Edward receives a phone call, his dad is lying comatose in hospital after a car accident that also injured his younger sister Cara. Cara hasn’t forgiven her brother for leaving as she feels that his departure led to their parent’s divorce. She went to live with their father who is a famous animal conservationist having lived with a wild wolf pack in Canada. Luke’s chance of recovery get slimmer each day, but Cara believes that her father will be a miracle. Edward, however, wants to turn the life support off and donate his organs. But is Edward motivated by revenge or what is best for his father?
This is something that no child, or person for that matter, wants to ever face. You hear about these miracles that occur after someone has been in a coma for many years, so why can’t it happen to your loved one? I felt that with Edward being away for so long, he doesn’t get to have an opinion or say on what happens to his father. But Cara doesn’t listen to what the doctors are saying, and she is keeping something back from what really happened in the car before the accident. The impression you get of Luke is that he is completely out going and wouldn’t want to be kept alive on a life support. This really pulled at your heart strings as not only have both Edward and Cara got to except that their dad isn’t coming back, they then have to argue about what is best for him, and not them.
Daniel was the only white boy in a native Eskimo village when he was a child, where he was teased endlessly for being different. As he grew up, he fought back, stealing, drink, robbing and cheating his way out of the area he grew up. He fell in love with a girl and she became pregnant. To become part of his new family he controlled his anger and became a docile and devoted husband and father. Fifteen years later, Daniel is a comic book artist, his wife teaches at a local college, and his daughter Trixie, is the light of his life. Trixie only knows her father as even-tempered and mild-mannered. Until she is date raped by her ex-boyfriend, Jason. Daniel struggles with his rage which will not only destroy him but his family and future.
This again is another difficult subject that Jodi has covered brilliantly. There is no court room drama, unlike most of her other books which I missed as it adds more excitement and drama. It is difficult to not feel sympathy for the two teenagers involved, Trixie and Jason, even though Jason did rape her, which proves that Jodi can get everyone’s perspective in the book and allow the reader to know both sides of the story. You understand Daniel’s desperation to have his little girl back, as Trixie no longer opens up to him and he feels powerless to help her. Unfortunately we didn’t get the extra bit of research that you expect of Jodi about the culture of the Eskimo village where Daniel was brought up (like we did during with Plain Truth and the Amish community).
A developer has slated an ancient Abenaki Indian burial ground for a strip mall, and now strange happenings have Comtosook, Vermont, talking of supernatural forces at work. Ross is a ghost hunter who’s never seen a ghost. All he’s searching for is something to end the pain after losing his fiance Aimee in a car accident. He has tried suicide numerous times and failed each time. Now Ross lives for a way to connect with Aimee from beyond. Whilst searching the site for signs of paranormal, Ross meets Lia, who died in 1932, and sparks life into him for the first time in years. As a seventy year old murder case is reopened, a shocking secret about a crime of passion is revealed.
Although supernatural has been covered in a couple of Jodi’s other books, this is completely different as it deals with someones emotions and how they cope to trying to find a loved one after they have passed on. The book takes a little while to get started, mainly as it is a little confusing to begin with, but once you get into it, it all falls nicely into place and is easy to follow. You instantly want to help Ross to move on with his life, and luckily with the help of Lia and his family, he manages to do that. The book is a mystery, romance, thriller and a ghost story all rolled into one, and you will find it hard not to be drawn into this.
Delia has been raised by her widowed father Andrew, and now she has a young daughter of her own, a perfect fiance, and her own search and rescue bloodhound dog, which she uses to help find missing persons. As she plans her wedding, she suffers from flashbacks of a life she can’t remember. When a policeman arrives to disclose the truth that her father has tried desperately to hide from her for most of her life, Delia finds her world turn upside down.
This book is slow to start, but I think this helps build on the setting and the family life that Delia has known. Without this I don’t believe you would begin to feel or understand the emotions Delia faces after finding out her father kidnapped her when she was 4 years old. Her whole life is a lie. This book has similarities to some of Jodi’s other books, and on occasions it is hard to sympathize with some of the other characters who came across a bit selfish.
Cameron is the police chief of a small town in Massachesetts which has been home to generations of his Scottish family. His cousin Jamie arrives at the police station with the body of his terminally ill wife and a confession that he killed her. Cameron immediately arrests him. Cameron’s wife Allie, doesn’t see it as clear cut as her husband. She believes and understands when Jamie claims that he was so in love with his wife he would grant all her wishes, including one that meant taking her life.
Mercy shows us what it would be like to watch a love one slowly die in front of your eyes, from a terminal illness. This book also gives you the added dimension of adultery as Cameron begins to be attracted to one of his wife’s assistants, Mia. I completely understood what Jamie did and although most would see it as murder I think it isn’t as simple as that. You will never know whether his wife genuinely wanted Jamie to kill her or whether it was a bit of selfishness on his part. The characters try to help each other through these difficult times but with each having different opinions on Jamie’s actions, could pull them further apart.
Mariah has caught her husband with another woman, the second time in her marriage, and their 7 year old daughter Faith witnesses every painful minute. After their divorce, Mariah struggles with depression, whilst Faith seeks solace in a new friend, a friend in which people will argue whether it is or isn’t imaginary. Faith constantly talks to her imaginary friend “Guard”, and begins to recite passages from the Bible, a book that she’s never read, and she has no religious background. Mariah is worried over her daughters sanity and sends her to numerous psychiatrists. When Faith starts to perform miracle healings, Mariah begins to wonder whether her daughter is actually seeing God. Word soon spreads, and believers and disbelievers begin following them around and camping outside their house, threatening their little stability they have left.
This book makes you question your beliefs. It touches on the supernatural element of belief. It also features mental health as Mariah’s husband had Mariah sectioned in a Mental Health hospital the first time she found out he was cheating. The characters a very real and you can feel how anxious Mariah and Faith become when they have strangers camping on their front garden. The characters relationships evolve in front of your eyes and are very believable. You sympathize with Mariah and when her ex-husband files for custody of Faith.
Cassie is suffering from amnesia and is found in wondering around a graveyard in downtown LA. She is taken in by a policeman, Will who is new to the LA force. A few days later, Cassie’s husband comes to the police station to claim her. No one is more surprised than Cassie that not only is she a renowned anthropologist but she is also married to Hollywood’s famous actor, Alex Rivers. As Alex helps Cassies to adjust to her fairytale way of living, parts of her memory start returning: the whirlwind romance in Africa, her major anthropological discovery, and the trajectory of Alex’s career. As Cassie settles back into her glamorous life, she feels an uneasiness nagging at her. She feels that there is something troubling and wild that would alter the picture of their perfect marriage. When Cassie finds a positive pregnancy test in their bathroom, dark memories come flooding back. As she tries to piece together the past, she runs to the one person she trusts completely to keep her hidden, Will.
This is one of Jodi’s earlier works, and although it’s not quite on par as some of her later work, she still delivers and handles the subject matters sensitively and with the necessary research that they deserve. You also experience a completely different lifestyle with Cassie and Alex living in the limelight of Hollywood. You really feel for Cassie as she tries to piece together what her life was like before her amnesia and hope she has the strength to leave her abusive relationship she has with Alex. You get to experience why Alex is the abusive husband from his past and his own troubled childhood. Jodi is very good at not having a complete bad guy and gives them a chance to have their say, so you can start to understand their actions.
Paige has only a few vivid memories of her mother, who abandoned her when she was 5 years old. Now, having left her father behind in Chicago for dreams of art school and marriage to an ambitious young doctor, she finds herself with a child of her own. But her mother’s absence, and shameful memories of her past, make her doubt both her maternal ability and her sense of self-worth. Would the baby be better off without Paige?
Postnatal depression of the main character leaves a 3 month old baby without a mother, as Paige runs away from her responsibility, leaving her husband, Nicholas struggling to train as a surgeon and take care of his 3 month old son. The problem for me on this book, was that the story started at the end, with Nicholas refusing Paige to see her son. The rest of the story explains how they met, but you already know that they end up together so there is no suspense in that part of the story, which made it a little boring. The book picks up towards the end as you get back to present time and the plot is unknown and exciting again.
Jane has always live in somebody’s shadow. After escaping a childhood of abuse, she marries Oliver, an oceanographer, and finds herself taking second place to his increasingly successful career. When Jane’s daughter, Rebecca, is slighted, Jane’s dramatic stand takes them all by surprise. Leaving Oliver and his work behind, Jane and Rebecca drive across the country to Uncle Joley and his apple orchard sanctuary where he works. Oliver, who is used to tracking whales across oceans, now has to use his skills to track his unpredictable wife across America.
This is Jodi’s first novel, and for me, my least favourite. I felt the book lacked the same umph that is shown in all of her other books. The storyline is confusing and found it hard to follow. She uses her now famous formula of each chapter being told by a different character. If you enjoyed reading other books by Jodi, I would still recommend you read this. But if you haven’t read any of her works, I would suggest trying another one first.
Jodi has also written Wonder Woman: Love and Murder for DC Comics set as a comic strip. It is completely different from what Jodi has done before, and I thoroughly enjoyed it as a bit of light reading, and something completely different to what I normally read.
Exclusively to e-reader, Jodi has written a collection of three short stories entitled Leaving Home: Short Stories, which include Weights and Measures (dealing with the tragic loss of a child), a non-fiction letter Jodi wrote to her son as he left for college, and Ritz (which tells the story of a mother who takes the vacation all mothers need sometimes). I am personally not a fan of short stories as I feel as soon as you get into the particular story, it is over. However I really enjoyed this collection and immediately got lost in all these featured in the collection.
Whilst researching for this blog (to make sure I hadn’t forgotten any books or got mixed up with the theme of each book), I found a book by Jodi that I hadn’t got, Over The Moon which is described as a musical play written with her son, Jake. I will be adding this to my Christmas list, which hopefully Santa will buy for me! 🙂
I was lucky enough to meet Jodi and her daughter Samantha in Manchester during their recent book signing of their joint book, Between The Lines, where I had their new book signed by both of them and the back of my Kindle signed by Jodi, as well as having a picture with her. I queued for 2 hours to see her, but was definitely worth it.
Sage befriends an old man, Josef who is particularly beloved in her community. He is everyone’s favourite retired teacher and Little League coach and they strike up a friendship at the bakery where Sage works. One day, he asks Sage a favour: to kill him. Shocked, Sage refuses… and then Josef confesses his darkest secret. He deserves to die because he was a Nazi SS guard. To complicate maters, Sage’s grandmother is a Holocaust survivor. What do you do when evil lives next door? Can someone who’s committed a truly heinous act ever atone for it with subsequent good behavior? Should you offer forgiveness to someone if you aren’t the party who was wronged? And most of all – if Sage even considers his request – is it murder, or justice?
During the book signing I went to for “Between The Lines”, I got given the first chapter of this book free. I wasn’t sure when I read the synopsis of this book, and should have learnt from my previous experience when I thought I wouldn’t enjoy Plain Truth. I was hooked and wanted to read more than the first chapter I was given. I have already pre-ordered this book, which is due for release next year.
And as a special thank you to her fans, Jodi is celebrating the publication of The Storyteller by offering fans a chance to have their names added to the inside covers of the gift hardback edition.
Release Date: March 2013