The Pact, by Jodi Picoult

Cover ImageFinished 8-16-10, rating 3.5/5, fiction. pub. 1998

There was nothing left to say.  He covered her body with his, and as she put her arms around him she could picture him in all his incarnations: age five, and still blond: age eleven, sprouting: age thirteen, with the hands of a man.  The moon rolled, sloe-eyed in the night sky; and she breathed in the scent of his skin. “I love you,” she said. 

He kissed her so gently she wondered if she had imagined  it.  She pulled back slightly, to look into his eyes.

And then there was a shot.

Opening of book

Right from the beginning we know that Emily is dead and her boyfriend Chris is not.  At the hospital Chris tells the police that they had made a suicide pact and he had chickened out in the end.  Only the police don’t believe him.  Chris and Emily’s parents are next door neighbors and long-time best friends, so this tragedy is compounded by the close relationship the two families share.  What really happened that night and can they all get past it?

Chris is the popular high school jock who is unprepared for the storm of accusations coming his way.  He is not used to being doubted.  His parents, Gus and James, don’t know how to deal with Chris, their daughter, or each other.  While Gus hovers around Chris protecting him, James expects things to get back to normal ASAP and refuses to really acknowledge what’s happened.

Emily was an only child, so her death at 17 hit her parents especially hard.  Melanie entered the grieving stage with anger and she never really got past it.  Michael wanted to do the right thing by his daughter and Chris, but he didn’t know what that was.

I’ve only read a few Picoult novels, but I’ve enjoyed them.  There is always a twist in the end, but this one wasn’t really much of a shock. Compelling, yes, shocking, no.  This was a story about teen suicide, love, and friendship.  I thought the impact of the death on the friendships was the most successful and honest part of the book.  It was the teen suicide and love storylines that didn’t work as well for me.  It did suck me in and I was very much involved, but some of it fell flat because it just didn’t make sense.  I know that suicide rarely makes sense to the living, so maybe that is unfair, but it’s how I felt nonetheless.

I usually love the shades of gray in Picoult’s novels, but this one was more black and white.  And the very end disappointed me.  Still it made me think and is a great book for discussion.

This is from my personal library and was chosen by Sharyn, Em, Colleen, Sheral, and Margie.  Here’s what they had to say…

“Love her books.”  Sheral

“Jodi Picoult’s stories are always very compelling and this is no exception.”  Colleen

“It got me hooked on her, couldn’t put it down.”  Em