The Pact by Jodi Picoult
Paperback: 272 pages
Publisher: Riverhead Trade
By Laurel Brodzinsky, Courier Staff Writer
“ He kissed her so gently she wondered if she had imagined it. She pulled back slightly, to look into his eyes. And then there was a shot."
The Pact by Jodi Picoult starts with this climax of action, and works simultaneously backwards and forwards to explore the motivations, character development, and aftermath of the death of Emily Gold.
Emily Gold and Christopher Harte have been best friends since they were born, and it was only expected by their families that they should begin dating in high school. Chris is completely comfortable with this, but Emily has doubts about the relationship and feels it is almost incestuous. Afraid to break up with the one boy she loves and afraid to stay with him, the problem is compounded when Emily finds out she is pregnant. She feels her only option is suicide.
Chris is charged with her murder after he is found with her, and tries to heal himself through his experiences in jail and effort to tell the jury the truth.
This is a love story, because it explores the true love that two people can have between them and magnitude of that love. It is not however, a love story that deals with pleasing “Notebook”-esque scenes of impassioned kissing or having fun in the rain, nor does it have “Twilight”-esque scenes of boys lounging without their shirts. This is a serious exploration of relationships, emotional bonds, and emotional struggles.
Picoult is amazingly realistic with her treatment of Chris while he is in jail and in the courthouse, if not with the reactions of the parents to the death of Emily. Emily’s mother blames Chris for the death and ignores evidence that he did not murder Emily. She acts awkwardly and then like a maniac in the courthouse, with no self control. Emily’s father, on the other hand, seems more of a lost soul and almost has an affair with Christopher’s mom.
The strongest parts of the writing were exploring the inner thoughts of Chris and Emily.
To an extent, all teens face the issues brought up in Picoult’s novel and would benefit from reading it. I would recommend the book more for girls than boys because I doubt many boys would, as teens, be interested in this. That’s not to say a boy couldn’t enjoy it. Picoult says she did not write the book for a teen audience, but I think teen readers can better empathize with the characters and experience the catharsis as the book ends. For parents reading the book, it sends a clear warning about how little parents know about who their children are.
Christopher’s parents defend him as being a star athlete, good student, and social, yet none of these things reflect what he believes in, how he felt about Emily, or how he defined himself.
Nineteen Minutes, also by Jodi Picoult, has appeared on the James Logan summer reading list before.