The book has a depressing theme running through it. It is not an light subject. It gets darker towards it end. The sadness moved me to tears. It felt cruel. I felt tricked.
The kids think like adults in this book. The thirteen year old Anna talks about "going though the motions". Jesse uses words like palatable and conjunction. My rusty vocabulary needed the dictionary for words such as parochial, seminal, frangipani and whickering.
Picoult's face is on the back cover of the book and I kept picturing it on most of the characters. Even the mother, who I knew was played by Cameron Diaz. My mind imagined a small Picoult for Anna snd Picoult with long hair for the teenage boy, Jesse. The character's all seemed to be an extension of the author. They did not have a life of their own. Even though Jesse swears a lot and Anna keeps saying the word 'cool'.
The book reads more like a movie screenplay. I expected a major courtroom drama to dominate this book. But it was family drama. This book ended up being a premise with flashbacks. The flashback felt distracting. The side stories of Julia, Jesse and Brian seemed out of place.
Picoult does good research. She has a convincing fireman's drill. The astronomy research is good. She peppers her book with greek mythology. I found myself skipping through all the medical jargon though. She puts in a healthy dose of irony and witty lines. Oh yes, this is a result of hard work and creativity.
The book has its twists and turns. Usually, I am a sucker for coincidence. Like in the book The Caves of Steel by Isaac Asimov (1953) where a robot-detective looks exactly like the murdered victim. But it did not work for me in this book. It made the storyline less plausible but it adds a good dose of drama.
I couldn't get enough of the attorney Campbell Alexander. Although I did not see the movie adaptation, I knew Alex Baldwin played this role. I kept picturing him and it fit well. I was stuck with this book till the end to find out why he had a service dog along. I won't spoil it for you by saying it here.