Sunday, October 19, 2014

Double Review: Leaving Time - Jodi Picoult

Leaving Time
Jodi Picoult
Series: N/A
Genre: Adult Fiction, Contemporary
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Word Rating: Wild From Start to Finish (see what I did there?)
Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

I love Jodi Picoult books. I've loved Jodi Picoult books for years and I don't think I'll ever get enough of them. When I found out she was signing at BEA, I needed to get an ARC of her newest book signed by her and meet the woman herself. She was lovely, by the way. And this new book definitely hits its mark.

The book centers around a 13 year old girl, Jenna Metcalf, and her search to find her mother -- who disappeared 10 years ago when she was admitted into a hospital after being found unconscious at the site of an elephant trampling and then regaining consciousness, leaving the hospital, and never being heard from again. The elephant trampling thing isn't totally weird and out of nowhere. Alice -- the mother -- worked with elephants and dedicated her life to researching them, particularly patterns of grief among elephants.

Anyway, it's been ten years and Jenna is trying to find out why her mother disappeared and whether she's out there somewhere with the answers to all of Jenna's questions -- and she has a lot of questions. And who does she enlist for help? A psychic, Serenity Jones, who used to specialize in missing persons cases with astounding accuracy and a private investigator, Virgil Stanhope, who was a police officer on the trampling case 10 years ago.

There is a lot about elephants in this book. I appreciate that because I consider elephants to be my favorite animal and this book incorporated them so well. If you aren't really all about elephants or animals or any of that stuff, don't fret, because this book is still for you. A lot of the elephant stuff isn't even about the elephants, it's about the humans. And the stuff that is about the elephants is not obnoxiously so -- things like behavior patterns and memory are discussed, usually with anecdotes, and it's very well dispersed. There is a lot of Alice's point of view and she just talks about things she's learned in her time spent working with and observing elephants from all different places. It's really quite interesting and I loved how it was done and how the lessons we learned about the behavior of the elephants were so connected with the behaviors of the humans in the book.

I also loved all the characterization. First, we have Jenna, who sounds both extraordinarily not 13 but at the same time sounds painfully 13. It's hard to explain, but I liked her as a protagonist. She had drive and determination that is honestly only ever found in anyone her age, and I really liked the way her willpower and demeanor was juxtaposed with Serenity and Virgil, the two main adults she has trying to help her with this case. Both of these adults are jaded, untrusting, exhausted by the world and everything its thrown at them. If people were photographs, they would be really worn and faded and bent around the edges, while Jenna would be new and bright and crisp but a little bent out of shape. I enjoyed reading about them all and the way their dynamics were with Jenna and the dialogue between the pair was great. Serenity and Virgil had chapters in their own points of view and they delved into their past and it really helped add dimensions to these characters you never would have expected to be so complex. Also, Serenity is a psychic and that's a pretty atypical character to have in this type of book, but she is executed extremely well and I think it's a great aspect of the book to have such a different cast of characters. There are also the whole slew of other people -- Jenna's father, the caretakers of the elephants, and all the people she meets in her journey.

The book took me by surprise more than a few times (there were also a few times when it was supposed to take the reader by surprise but I kind of knew where it was going, but that honestly didn't detract from the impact of the events) and I knew it was all leading up to a big reveal at the end, or some big twist and as I was reading I was really excited to learn what it was. I won't give anything away but I liked the direction the story went a lot.

It's so clear that Jodi Picoult put a lot of time and effort into research for this book -- obviously about the elephants, which is impressive in itself, but also about a lot of other aspects of human nature and what a real psychic is and tons of other things you'd never guess she had to research before going in because they're so well integrated into the story.

With such an engaging plot and well-written characters, I devoured this book and highly recommend anyone who comes across it to add it to his or her bookshelf, because it's a wonderful read by an author who is nothing short of amazing.

- Noor

Amrutha's Review of Leaving Time
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars
Word Rating:  Stellar

I want to start this with the preface that I love all things Jodi Picoult. Over the years I have read pretty much everything she has ever written and believe me when I say she is literally one of the only people (forget authors), who can make me cry very consistently, and if I don't cry (either happy or sad tears), I usually form a very strong emotional attachment to the characters, and Leaving Time did not disappoint.

When Noor and I stood in an hour long wait for this book and to meet Jodi Picoult, I was so excited to pick this up, and boy, were my instincts on par. Side note: Picoult was so nice, Noor and I both loved her, so its just a plus that her writing is awesome as well.

Let's talk about Jenna: she's young and fiery and really determined, which I think really makes me love her as a protagonist. As a young girl who is both 1) coming into her own and 2) has been through a whole lot more than someone her age should've, seeing her as her mom kind of just up and vanished. Jenna was interesting and a great character and was fleshed out well for a prepubescent girl in and adult novel, but Serenity was the real star of the show for me. She is a psychic in the novel, and no matter how much I discount psychics in real life and in fiction, Serenity really captured my heart. Virgil, our washed out, private detective/ex-cop was interesting as well: there isn't a lot for me to say about Serenity, Virgil, Jenna, and even Alice, Jenna's mother, as they are all characterized in the same way that they are in every Jodi Picoult book: as the book goes on, we find out more and more plot-twisty back story, and it added dimension to every character. Picoult never writes static characters and she did not begin now.

The only part of the novel that really lost points with me was the constant inclusion of information about elephants. Like, we get it, elephants are important to the overall plot of the story, but the random inclusions about elephants got to be a little uninteresting for me, and I skimmed through those parts. I guess, however, that I should've expected it: every Picoult novel centers around a researched topic or court scenes or both.

What impresses me so much about Jodi Picoult's writing is that she is so incredibly predictable, but pulls everyone in at the same time. All of her books have the same set up: multiple characters tell the story, there are interconnected point of views, we find out more and more about characters' backstories as the book develops, and everything culminates in a plot twist no one can see coming, all centered around some researched topic of Picoult's, whether it be leukemia (My Sister's Keeper) or elephants. This same set up persists in this novel, and I highly suggest you read it, along with everything else Picoult has ever written.

- Amrutha

Have you ever lost something or someone?
Let us know in the comments!

No comments:

Post a Comment