This is my review and thoughts on Defending Jacob by William Landay.
God, I wish I had that time back in my life = 0
Eh, it wasn’t the worst book I’ve ever read = 1
Shrug, I mean, it was okay = 2
I enjoyed it = 3
Have your read this book? It’s pretty good = 4
Wow, you need to read this book now = 5
Defending Jacob = 3
This is the kind of book that is great for 95% of the novel and then the ending goes awry. It doesn’t go completely, wildly off the rails, but the ending was out of sync with the rest of the book. It seemed sensationalized. I would have given the book a 4 if it weren’t for the last 30 minutes of the audiobook.
The Amazon review states the author pulled off a clever plot device — no, no it didn’t.
I liked the style of the storytelling, switching between Andy narrating and the trial. I thought the topic was very interesting. I also thought the part the author did really well was the fact I didn’t know if Jacob had done it or not.
I did not like the character of Laurie. I could not identify with a character who behaved in the way that she did. I also felt she was not given enough time in the book to fully develop. Maybe if we had spent more time with Laurie, I would have understood her character more.
Here are my answers to book club questions (questions provided by the publisher).
1. How would you have handled this situation if you were Andy? Would you make the same choices he made? Where would you differ the most?
Emotionally, I would probably do much the same. I would try and support my kid and get the best possible outcome for him or her.
The situation I would most differ with Andy on is I would not discard the knife.
2. Before and during the trial, how would you have handled the situation if you were Laurie? Do you feel she made strong choices as a mother and a wife?
There is no way I would be speaking ill of Jacob anywhere, not even in the psychiatrist’s office. In my mind, there is still a chance that stuff I said would get out. I would also be worried anything I said would be misconstrued. Plus, I think what Laurie said in the psychiatrist’s office was irrelevant. At 4 years old, the stuff that Jacob was doing didn’t seem strong enough to warrant that level of concern. Perhaps it was a ploy by the author, to put just enough doubt in your head, but not convince you that Jacob was born a murderer.
I think Laurie spent way too much time not realizing the scope of the situation. She made a lot of what was going on about her. Her loss of friends, her loss of esteem in people’s eyes. The situation was about Jacob and how best to protect him, not about her.
She was absolutely ridiculous thinking she could go up to the parent’s of the deceased boy. She was definitely not dealing with the reality of the situation.
3. Is Andy a good father? Why or why not?
I believe so. He loves his kid. He wants to protect him. He tries to shield him from the media. He joins the defense team. He does everything he knows how to do in order to make the situation better for Jacob.
I don’t think there was enough evidence to think that Jacob was for sure guilty, so I think he did everything right in assuming his kid was innocent. I don’t think it is a sin to believe your kid isn’t guilty. I thought the book pushed too hard the agenda that Andy was oblivious.
4. Do you believe Jacob is guilty?
To me, there was no way to tell for sure, given the facts in the book. Just because Jacob is withdrawn and subdued, doesn’t make him the killer. Yeah, he should have called someone when he found the body, if he didn’t do it, however, this alone doesn’t make him guilty. Bringing a knife to school makes him an idiot, it doesn’t mean he did it. Writing the story doesn’t make him guilty, it makes him unaware of the way it will be seen by others. He’s a teenager at the center of a murder trial. He’s just a stupid kid who was writing about a situation he found himself in.
Once the second girl wound up dead, yeah. I think he is guilty. However, this seemed really convenient for the book. I didn’t buy that if he was the killer of his classmate, he would do this. To randomly kill a girl from vacation does not fit the setup of the book. He would have shown way more inclinations toward violence and indifference to people prior to the first and second killing. I think the ending did a disservice to the entire book.
Do I think Laurie should have killed her son? No. That also seemed sensationalized for a book ending. There was not nearly enough foreshadowing. It’s a big leap from questioning whether or not your son is guilty/mentioning a few details from childhood, to killing him in an auto accident.
5. Is Jacob a product of his upbringing? Do you think he is he a violent person because his environment makes him violent, or do you think he has violent inclinations since birth?
No, Jacob is not a product of his upbringing in this case.
6. Bullying is such a hot topic in today’s media. Do you think its role had anything to do with Jacob’s disposition?
His disposition? No, I don’t think bullying caused him to be disengaged and unsympathetic. He lacked empathy. Jacob did not like getting bullied. It is his disengagement from humanity that allowed him to, in his mind, simply remove the bullying completely from the equation.
7. Do you think Neal Logiudice acts ethically in this novel? What about Andy? What about Laurie?
I don’t think Logiudice acts ethically. I think he takes advantage of the situation based on his own ambition. He spends a great deal of time trying to discredit Andy. I’m not convinced he needed to take it as far as he did. It becomes even more apparent when Andy is on the witness stand in defense of his wife.
8. What was the most damning piece of evidence against Jacob?
The most damning piece of evidence was his failure to call the police after the body was discovered — even if it still didn’t make him guilty. There were many opportunities for him to call and he didn’t. The most damning evidence overall was the many circumstantial situations he found himself in. One alone doesn’t make him guilty, but piled up, it didn’t look good. Still, if I was the jury, I don’t think I could have convicted him.
9. If Jacob hadn’t been accused, how do you think his life would have turned out? What kind of a man do you think he would grow up to be?
This is a moot question because the book eludes to the fact he immediately committed another murder — one not assigned to bullying.
Overall, I felt this book fell victim to its own ambitions. It was trying to make too many points and failed at fully flushing out each concept it wanted to address. Ultimately, what was most sacrificed was proper foreshadowing.
Since it was an audiobook, I must comment on the production quality. I found the production excellent. The narrator was very professional and gave a good performance. I thought the quality of the background noise was excellent too — I didn’t hear anything but the narrator.
Until next time.
Madeline Fresco is a novelist who lives in San Diego. She is the author of CROSSED THE LINE, available for Kindle at Amazon.com, for Nook at Barnes & Noble, and as an ePub at other eBook retailers. You can also listen to her novel as a free, serialized audiobook at . Her second book THE CHOICE, is available on Kindle at Amazon. Her third book ANGUISH, is available for Kindle at Amazon.com