Fiction, Mystery/Thriller

Thriller Thursday: Kayla Read DEFENDING JACOB and It Hurt

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Andy Barber has built a happy life for himself and his family. He is a successful assistant district attorney in suburban Massachusetts, he’s married to the love of his life, and he’s a respected member of the community. Then his fourteen-year-old son, Jacob, is charged with murdering his fellow student, and the evidence against him would make even his own parents face some hard truths, including the secrets of Andy’s past.

Before I begin my review, I just want to say that I’ve not watched the show–not even a preview, so I won’t be commenting on the similarities or differences between the two.

This novel is not for the faint of heart. It’s not the kind of book you can breeze through then go tripping through the tulips without a care in the world. This book will make you think; it will make you consider things you’ve likely never considered. As a parent, this novel really got to me and examine quite a few ethical quandaries ; it challenged my beliefs about nature vs. nurture.

I can’t say much about the plot without giving it away, but the author is a former lawyer. His description of courtroom procedure is spot-on and adds to the realism of the title. The characters were very well-developed, and the first-person narration really added to the mystery and suspense.

The only issue I had was with the character of Laurie, Andy’s wife and Jacob’s mother. It’s not that she was poorly written–though I would obviously have understood her better had the author given her perspective on things–I just didn’t like her. When she finds out about Andy’s “secret past,” something he had no control over, she immediately starts treating him like garbage. She blames Andy and his secrets for the situation with Jacob even after she admits to having left baby Jacob “in his crib or Pack ‘n Play” and “walk away” whenever he was in a “scary mood.” Hiding from your baby’s tantrums sounds pretty neglectful to me. When Andy doesn’t do exactly what she wants, she shuts down. She’s honestly the most passive-aggressive character I’ve encountered in fiction. I understand that she was going through a difficult time, but she could have been adult enough not to assign blame. The internet would dub Laurie a “Karen.”

Truthfully, this book is worth the hype, but I can’t grant a fifth star to a Karen.

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