The Pact by Jodi Picoult: A Review

“Adults, light-years away from this, rolled their eyes and smirked and said, “this too shall pass” – as if adolescence was a disease like chicken pox, something everyone recalled as a mild nuisance, completely forgetting how painful it had been at the time.”

I still remember clearly the absoluteness of relationships during adolescence, how it is easy to feel like your world could really begin and end with someone you love. The Pact took me back in more ways than one into that phase of my life reminding me of things that I could relate to mixed with fascination for the unfamiliar extremes that I never went to.

The novel begins (like many pageturners) with a person dying, and the person in question here is seventeen-year old Emily Gold, a smart, beautiful and talented girl who is a beloved daughter and girlfriend. The boyfriend Chris is with her in what appears to be a botched Suicide Pact but in a matter of days, Chris finds himself accused of killing the girl he loved more than his life. The novel sets out to explore, the actual events of the night she died in a courtroom drama fashion, offering glimpses into prison life and the complicated web of relationships between the two sets of parents.

The main theme of the novel: teen suicide is provocative yet dealt with dignity and apparent genuineness. Picoult manages to escape the typical stereotypes surrounding teens and suicides to draw a realistic and heart-rending picture of the bleakness and hopelessness that can drive a person to taking their own life.

I enjoyed reading Picoult’s ‘My Sister’s Keeper’ and having read that I can definitely say this is not one of her best works. It is essentially a page-turner which does lose pace after Chris’s arrest and seems to drag on a bit during the trial. There are some poignant pieces as well, especially when she explores Chris and Emily’s relationship as it develops from childhood companionship not much unlike brother-sister bond into something romantic and eventually sexual in adolescence.

“How could he convey to someone who’d never even met her the way she always smelled like rain, or how his stomach knotted up every time he saw her shake loose her hair from its braid? How could he describe how it felt when she finished his sentences, turned the mug they were sharing so that her mouth landed where his had been? How did he explain the way they could be in a locker room, or underwater, or in the piney woods of Maine, bus as long as Em was with him, he was at home?”

Sadly, Emily finds this transformation into romance and sex rather incestuous which when coupled with her accidental pregnancy leads to depression and eventual suicide for which she compels Chris to pull the trigger for her. It escapes me how a smart, educated boy her was projected to be finds himself helpless to even seek help for Emily and the author’s reasoning failed to convince me.

“I love you,” he whispered, and that was the moment he knew what he was going to do. When you loved someone, you put their needs before your own. No matter how inconceivable those needs were; no matter how fucked up; no matter how much it made you feel like you were ripping yourself into pieces.”

The insertion of certain dynamics between the parents who have been neighbours and as close as family did at times seem unnecessary and deliberate. After Emily’s death, both couple have fall-outs and Chris’s mother Gus and Em’s grieving father Michael, find themselves drawn to each other. A few insertions of sex (excuse the pun) seemed out of place and neither forwarded the story-line nor created depth of plot and could be avoided.

The real disappointment occurred for me towards the end of the novel when I found not one, not two but three typos. I was appalled.  It seemed like the author had missed her deadlines and rushed through the ending forgetting to use spell-check. The words Genuine and Investigation were misspelt and in another place, himself was used instead of herself. (Yes, I am a Grammar Nazi)

Although, The Pact was a good read, I believe it could have been shorter and more riveting.

To read more on the author, visit here.

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