Novelist's Book Strikes a Nerve on Issue of School Violence

School administrators wrestle over novels scenarios that could be all too familiar


Her book bears some resemblance to the scenes aired on television of Columbine. "Chaos was a constellation of students, running out of the school and trampling the injured. Chaos was the boy holding a handmade sign in an upstairs window that read HELP US," Picoult wrote.

As a mother of three children - ages 15, 13, and 11 - Picoult said she wanted to enlighten communities where residents can't imagine a mass shooting taking place. She stressed that the book, set in a college town, is not about Hanover, home to Dartmouth College.

Picoult has written 13 other books, including four New York Times best-sellers, and has tackled other social issues, including teen suicide pacts. She starts her national tour for "Nineteen Minutes" on March 6 at Natick's Wilson Middle School; coincidentally, it is the middle school attended by James Alenson, the 15-year-old victim at Lincoln-Sudbury.

"Unfortunately, it's a topic that has hit everyone lately," said Joan Craig, community relations coordinator for Natick's Morse Institute Library, which is sponsoring the event with Borders. "I think the more open students, teachers, parents, and friends are, perhaps it will save something like this happening more often."