I really like Jodi Picoult, but…

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?

They’re repetitive.

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 clichΓ©s.

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!

~ Shruti

Goodreads | Twitter

26 thoughts on “I really like Jodi Picoult, but…

  1. Yes. I really like her too, but I agree. They’re very cookie-cutter. I do one a year or so… I definitely couldn’t do a bunch all at once! Because besides the formatting getting a bit tedious, the subject matter is also really heavy.

    Anywho! Excellent points!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You write such good posts, Shruti. I absolutely agree to this! I needed to read just one book by Picoult to know it’s going to be like this (My Sister’s Keeper). That said, I know she writes good stuff, and I know she writes about important topics. But I think it’s not meant for a fan to read book after book! She certainly commercialized, and that’s good in one way, at least that’s how I try to think about it – Picoult has enough fame and an accessible style for “your average Joe” to pick her books up and be educated about really painful, important problems. Like… she’s a voice. But she’s not for the advanced reader, for the blogger, for the bookworm. She writes for the masses that rarely pick books up, and I’m glad she does! Because otherwise a lot on infrequent readers wouldn’t be reading about stuff like this πŸ™‚ I don’t know if I’m making my point clear, but I hope you know what I mean xD I wrote and scheduled two posts today, so my brain’s pretty much gone for the night xD

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, you’ve put my thoughts into words! She IS for the fan! While I may be a fan of her, I’ve realised that I need to draw the line somewhere. Her books are great, but I need to pace myself. And, you’re right again about the accessible for the average Joe part. I believe her books serve as excellent gateway booksβ€”they make people pick up more books. With her amazing style of writing, a novel that doesn’t follow her usual plot line would be brilliant! Let’s hope she writes something different soon. πŸ™‚


  3. Really great questions and point. I don’t actually think I’ve read anything by her, but I expect the bigger picture is to do with her publishing contract. If she is producing books which are selling, then the publisher is going to want more of this kind. They really have got a winning formula; court room dramas have been hot, as have books featuring fatal illnesses or syndromes which make people different. I remember the draw of The Rosie Project.
    The fact that you, the reader, have now reached saturation point for them is an early indication that their lifespan is nearing an end. Can the author step up and write with the same success in a different genre? Will her publisher push her towards whatever they think will be the next hot topic?
    I hear whispers that post apocalypse is going to be big.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. True! Why rework the formula when it’s working just fine right now? The masses seem to eat it up! However, she did diverge from the fatal illness/courtroom drama storyline with Leaving Time. I really enjoyed the book, but several fans were disappointed that it “wasn’t up to the usual Picoult standards”. I think the change needs to start from the fans themselves. As long as this formula wins the market, I don’t see why Jodi needs to change anything up.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Totally agree! I started reading Jodi Picoilt years ago, kind of as a transition from YA to regular fiction, and while one of my favorite books is still a Picoult (The Pact) I just can’t bring myself to pick up any more of them – they are ripped from the headlines and a little repetitive, and I find myself connecting with or even caring about the characters less and less.

    You are not alone

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have this theory that everyone loves the first 2 or 3 Picoults they read. For years, I’ve been saying I love her based on just My Sister’s Keeper, The Storyteller, and Leaving Time. And then I read Change of Heart, which was slightly similar to My Sister’s Keeper (sick child, moral/controversial question), but I loved that one too because of the excellent writing and the final twist. And then there was Handle with Care, once again a sick child/overworked mom/controversial topic. House Rules, Nineteen Minutes, and several other books later, it was obvious that only the issues were different. Everything else was the same.

      The thing is, any of these books, when picked up for the first time, will be found to be great works. But as the reader reads more of her works, they simply tire of the mantra.

      Glad to hear that I’m not alone. 😊


  5. In the realm of writers who have a style I really like Jodi Picoult above most others. I recently read a Lisa Scottoline book and I am going into a James Patterson book (that’s a whole other barrel of fish) but I’ve always liked hers because they raise an issue. They are well researched but they also raise interesting questions and present the question from multiple angles. Even when her plots are formulaic I don’t feel like it’s the exact character.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. True! That’s something I really appreciate about her books. There’s so much information that’s well researched and presented from multiple POVs. They also make you think. I guess as long as the formula keeps her in the bestsellers list, there’s no reason for it to be changed. I know I’d still love her books when I take them back up after a break.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yea I can’t read them all in secession either, but I think the point I was trying to make was that she is a thoughtful writer, and mindful of what she takes on. The novel definitely isn’t what I would describe as plot driven! (Says the woman reading Small Great Things now!)

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Glad to hear I’m not the only one that goes through this. Take Gaiman for example. I think he is a freaking genius! Do I adore his books NOPE lol I do whine and complaint abut his books a lot BUT I keep reading anything he writes. Great post! πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I have not read many of her earlier books but loved The Storyteller and small Great Things. Was lucky to see her in Toronto for her tour talking bout Small Great Things and that book really makes one think about racism and prejudice. It is worth a read and is not formulaic in its’ approach. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I totally agree with you. I found her books in high school and was working my way through the whole shelf of them but I definitely found the same main plot points cropped up in each. I think that’s why I enjoyed Vanishing Acts because it felt like more of a switch-up from her usual.

    It’s been a while since I’ve read her books and I do really like them but it’s hard to be constantly stuck in that rhythm.

    Liked by 1 person

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