I’ve been reading a lot of Jodi Picoult over the past few months. I think she’s an excellent writer, but as much as it kills me to say this, I think her books are too commercial.
I started contemplating on whether I’d write this post about 2 Picoult books ago. The book I finished today, Nineteen Minutes, convinced me to write this. If you check my ratings for her books, it would be a stream of 4 or 5 stars. Then, why do I think I need a break from her books?
Most of her books follow this plot:
a. A child in a middle class family has a problem (leukemia, bullied, brittle bone disease, heart disease, Asperger’s syndrome… take your pick).
b. Mommy dearest fights for the child, usually against a close friend or family.
c. A courtroom drama.
d. A final twist (which is usually the death of an important character).
I’m not being scathing here. I love Jodi Picoult. She makes you think about controversial topics. She makes you wonder what you’d do in such a situation. Her writing is sentimental and extremely quotable. But, how many books does she need to prove this?
Why I still love her books:
Picoult is an amazing researcher. Her novels are so detailed and what surprises me–and many readers, definitely–is that none of the stories are from personal experience. I’ve never seen this much detailing in books. Even more surprising is the fact that she’s released at least a book every year. Which means she does some hard core research and still manages to wring out novels every year. How impressive is that?
Another impressive point to note is that all her books are about broken families, but she’s had a great childhood.
Says this 2007 Guardian article about Picoult:
For someone who writes about families brought to breaking point by a personal trauma, Picoult’s own story is surprisingly conventional. So much so that when she took a creative-writing course at Princeton she rang up her mother to find out if there were any dark secrets she had not told her about. Surely famous writers were supposed to be more tormented than this?
I don’t think I’ll ever stop reading her books, but that doesn’t mean I won’t whine about them being repetitive.
While her books aren’t exactly airport reads, you can’t deny that they’re commercial. At one point, this has to stop. There are some of her books that diverged from the norm (The Storyteller, Leaving Time), but a majority follows the sick child + exhausted mom + courtroom drama mantra.
I think readers need to pace themselves while reading her books. Don’t pick up another as soon as your done with one Picoult. Especially if, like yours truly, you easily get tired of sentimentality and cringe at clichés.
It’s extremely rare to find an author who’s this proficient and prolific. Here’s to hoping Picoult writes more novels where she diverges from the usual mantra!
Do you like Jodi Picoult? Do you echo my views or do you have different opinions? Let’s talk in the comments!