I just finished The Tenth Circle, and I have to say, I can see why Jodi Picoult decided to juxtapose a book about the stresses of adolescence with Dante's Inferno. If there were a tenth circle of hell, it would certainly be high school. Now, that's not exactly the point that Ms. Picoult is trying to get across, but it isn't exactly all that far from it either. And while I can easily see the inclination to pair adolescence with a trip through hell, to then wind it together with a comic book that's being written/drawn by one of the characters, well that was pure genius.
What I love about Jodi Picoult is the way she can take an issue that you've already made a decision about, and then cause you to question yourself. At the center of the plot is a rape, and not just a date rape, but a complicated incident that causes you to question when exactly a rape is in fact a rape. I never really thought that was a question for me. When a girl says no, that's rape right? Well, maybe it's not quite as simple as that. And what if the girl didn't say no? And what if she was drugged and had trouble saying no? And what if the so-called rapist didn't even know she was drugged? Is that rape? I'm not sure. By the end of the novel, it's hard not to pity all of the characters. They all have their own demons, which is the theme. And they all suffer more from their own thoughts and actions than they do from anything anyone else has done to them.
I also love that hell in the novel is very much like Alaska. It's cold, freezing cold, and barren. I think cold says hell to me even more than heat. It's supposed to be all fire and brimstone in most descriptions, and not that burning alive for all eternity would be pleasant or anything. But something about freezing to death forever says hell to me. I think when you live in NE, the cold is just more real, instills much more fear.