The Pact by Jodi Picoult: C-

From the back cover:
The Hartes and the Golds have been neighbors for 18 years and are very close. So when Chris and Emily’s friendship reaches the next level, nobody is surprised. Then one night, the hospital calls. Seventeen-year-old Emily is dead—shot in the head by a gun Chris took from his father’s cabinet. One bullet remains in the chamber, and Chris tells of his suicide pact with Emily. But the police have questions, and soon Chris is on trial for murder.

Picoult’s works are usually about sensational topics like faith healers and school shootings, and nearly all culminate in a trial of some kind. I’d only read one Picoult previously, and liked it well enough to try another, but now I see what critics mean when they complain about the repetitiveness of her books.

Besides the fact that a violent crime has been committed in each, both books employed the same tactic of alternating back and forth between the past and the present, saving the final reveal of what really happened until the end, in the middle of all the trial proceedings. The teen leads were childhood friends in both books. The teen boys had the same defense attorney. This book was actually written first, so I suppose it’s not technically the repetitive one, but if you copy something down the line, then the original is going to be subject to some retroactive criticism on that account.

All of the characters felt very shallow to me, and many of their actions rather implausible. For example, Chris intended to stop his girlfriend from committing suicide. So, what did he do? He brought a gun and bullets to a meeting with her, as he had pledged he would, because otherwise she’d realize he intended to stop her. Uh, so you were gonna let her load the gun and then stop her? ‘Cos I think she’d be realizing it either way, and in one version, she’s not, like, armed. Another example is the married couples, who go for months and months barely speaking after the incident, and then are suddenly, inexplicably, going at it like bunnies. You’d think there’d be some working out of issues first or something!

Also, waaaaay too much detail on the sex scenes. I know where the various bits go, thank you very much. Picoult obviously felt it was important to reiterate that for her readers, I guess. Also, I did not need that part where Chris and Emily fondly reminisce about the time they watched some dogs doing the deed. I’m going to do my best to forget I ever read some of those words.

Pretty much the only thing that kept me interested was the hook I mentioned above—dangling the final revelation in front of readers like a carrot, lending them the necessary fortitude to make it past all the dreck in order to satisfy their curiosity. The trial was pretty interesting, too, even though the outcome was highly unlikely. Beyond that, however, I can think of nothing that I actually liked.

I’m done with Picoult now.

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