Review | The Pact by Jodi Picoult

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Today’s review is of The Pact by Jodi Picoult. First published in 1998, this novel is a dramatic and heavy mainstream fiction novel dealing with themes of suicide and love.

For eighteen years the Hartes and the Golds have lived next door to each other, sharing everything from Chinese food to chicken pox to carpool duty—they’ve grown so close it seems they have always been a part of each other’s lives. Parents and children alike have been best friends, so it’s no surprise that in high school Chris and Emily’s friendship blossoms into something more. They’ve been soul mates since they were born.

So when midnight calls from the hospital come in, no one is ready for the appalling truth: Emily is dead at seventeen from a gunshot wound to the head. There’s a single unspent bullet in the gun that Chris took from his father’s cabinet—a bullet that Chris tells police he intended for himself. But a local detective has doubts about the suicide pact that Chris has described.

Reasons for Reading:

Jodi Picoult is one of my all-time favourite authors. I love how she covers relevant societal issues and writes sometimes controversial storylines. But, I am still making my way through reading all of the books she has published. I own a copy of The Pact and it has been sitting on my TBR shelf. Loree from @tiny.librarian.reading over on Instagram announced she’d be doing a buddy read at the beginning of October with this book. I’ve never done a buddy read in this manner before, and knowing this book was one that I’ve been wanting to read for a long time, I jumped in on the opportunity!

My Review:

This book was HEAVY. And I don’t mean heavy in weight, I mean heavy in drama and sadness and tragedy. For those reasons, it was a difficult and slow read. It deals with suicide, unfair murder charges, tight-knit families, and young love. All of these topics can carry immense weights as individual book themes, so when you have them all together in this one novel, I found it was almost too much to read and digest. The story is nothing less than completely tragic.

While reading, I was empathizing with Emily. She was carrying such heavy feelings she was carrying about her relationship with Chris and her own trauma. Chris and Emily spent practically every minute of their entire lives together. And, we learn that neither of them has memories that don’t involve the other person. I can understand how that can cloud and muddle romantic and familial feelings. Personally, I couldn’t imagine dealing with all that at only 17 years of age. I feel saddened that Emily felt that she couldn’t be honest with her parents or with Chris. It is heartbreaking that she felt the only way out was through suicide. Emily states:

I’m too much of a coward to kill myself. And too much of a coward to live.

Jodi Picoult, The Pact

I know that mental health and suicide is a very real and prevalent issue in society, especially amongst young people. Even though this book was first published over 20 years ago, the themes of it still relate and can be understood today. After reading it, I don’t believe that Emily wanted to die. But, I think she felt it would be harder to keep on living. Not only harder for herself, but also harder for Chris, and harder for her family. I feel immense sorrow and pain for anyone, fictional or real, who feels that suicide is their best option.

I enjoyed the writing style and language of the story. Even though the timeline goes back and forth between past and present-day, it is easy to follow and I didn’t get lost about the timeline or confused about the characters and their placement. I certainly was interested in the story and the outcome the whole way through, and the author maintained my interest until the very end. I remember feeling my heart rate increase and the suspense build inside of me at one point as I rushed to turn a page. That’s an experience I often only feel in suspense thrillers or rare books by my favourite authors.

My Rating:

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5) I liked this book a lot. But, I think because of how heavy it was, it took me a long time to finish it so I was tired of it by the time I finished reading. It is just long, and heavy, and sad.

For a full description of my review rating system, click here.

I’d Recommend The Pact If You:

  • love Jodi Picoult
  • can handle heavy themes of suicide, incarceration and prison life, tragedy, and heartbreak mixed with family relationships and young love.
  • want a book that keeps you invested in the characters and engaged with the story until the very last sentence.

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