BookBrowse Reviews The Tenth Circle by Jodi Picoult

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The Tenth Circle

A Novel

by Jodi Picoult

The Tenth Circle by Jodi Picoult X
The Tenth Circle by Jodi Picoult
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  • First Published:
    Mar 2006, 400 pages
    Paperback:
    Oct 2006, 416 pages

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A story that probes the unbreakable bond between parent and child -- and the dangerous repercussions of trying to play the hero. Novel

From the book jacket: Trixie Stone is fourteen years old and in love for the first time. She's also the light of her father's life - a straight-A student; a freshman in high school who is pretty and popular; a girl who's always looked up to Daniel Stone as a hero. Until, that is, her world is turned upside down with a single act of violence...and suddenly everything Trixie has believed about her family - and herself - seems to be a lie.

For fifteen years, Daniel Stone has been an even-tempered, mild-mannered man: a stay-at-home dad to Trixie and a husband who has put his own career as a comic book artist behind that of his wife, Laura, who teaches Dante's Inferno at a local college. But years ago, he was completely different: growing up as the only white boy in an Eskimo village, he was teased mercilessly for the color of his skin. He learned to fight back: stealing, drinking, robbing, and cheating his way out of the Alaskan bush. To become part of a family, he reinvented himself, channeling his rage onto the page and burying his past completely...until now. Could the young boy who once made Trixie's face fill with light when he came to the door have been the one to end her childhood forever? She says that he is, and that is all it takes to make Daniel, a man with a history he has hidden even from his family, venture to hell and back in order to protect his daughter.

Comment: In her 13th book Picoult does what she does best - creates a fast-paced tale that explores a hot button issue.  In this case teen sexual activity, and more specifically date rape; she also throws in some thought provoking explorations on whether it's ever possible to let go of past mistakes in order to reinvent oneself.  In addition, she adds an extra twist by collaborating with comic book artist Dustin Weaver, who has created a graphic novel set within her text. 

The graphic novel is purported written by Daniel, Trixie's dad who is a comic-book artist.  Daniel's central character is similar to himself - a formerly violent teenager brought up as the only white boy in an Alaskan Inuit village. Every chapter contains some pages from Daniel's book which, rather than distracting from the narrative, make it possible to show a different point of view in a novel fashion.

Some reviewers thought this mix worked well, such as The Houston Chronicle reviewer who wrote, "novels and comic books exhibit many differences. But in Jodi Picoult's The Tenth Circle, the reader witnesses a marriage of the two — and it's a marriage made in heaven.   On the other hand, Publishers Weekly felt that the "drawings, though well-done, distract from the powerful picture she has drawn with words". Another reviewer felt that the Dante metaphor was overly labored. 

In response to the question, "Have any of the early reactions to The Tenth Circle surprised you?", Jodi replies ....

A lot of people have been reevaluating the way they read a story, which I just love, because that's part of the reason why I wrote the book. Some people want to absorb the art just where it is, mid-narrative. Some read the graphic novel first. Some save it for last. Most people are entranced by the way the art is just art until the narrative is added to it, almost as if there's a chemical reaction…resulting in insight into Daniel's character. Oh, and they seem to be having a good time searching for the hidden message in the art.

Parents who've read the book keep pulling me aside to desperately ask, "That teen sex stuff; the parties…that's all fiction, right?" I think that peeling back the surface layer of what teenagers are really doing intimately with each other is startling for adults to blatantly see and hear – I anticipated that reaction. What took me by surprise, however, are the number of young women who've written to me to say that they were date raped, and never told anyone, because they were sure it was their fault in some way – they hadn't expressed NO clearly enough. I think Trixie's experience mirrors theirs, and validates their feelings – which allows them to open up about something they've hidden for years. Things like this are humbling -- when you write fiction you don't expect to make a profound difference in someone's real life.  Read more from this interview.

The bottom-line is that The Tenth Circle will probably not go down as one of Picoult's strongest books, nonetheless it's a page-turning read on a topical subject, and one that many, particularly parents of teens, should find of interest.

This review is from the December 6, 2006 issue of BookBrowse Recommends. Click here to go to this issue.

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