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Review: Defending Jacob

May 8, 2014

Defending Jacob

When fourteen year old Ben Rifkin is murdered, District Attorney Andy Barber is assigned the case.  Andy’s son, Jacob, is the same age as Ben and attends the same school he did – the boys knew each other but they weren’t exactly friends.  Andy pursues the evidence and is shocked when something points to Jacob.  He is taken off the case and finds himself defending Jacob instead of prosecuting the murderer.

Defending Jacob by William Landay is a mystery/thriller with a twist.  It makes you think about how far you would go to defend someone you love.  Jacob is a sullen teenager with an attitude.  He’s gotten into little scrapes, but what kid hasn’t?  Andy loves his son unconditionally and knows he isn’t capable of murder.  The community isn’t so sure and the Barbers find themselves ostracized.  Things aren’t easy but the family pulls together as they live through this nightmare.

The story is told through Andy’s point of view so he is the most developed character.  I found myself drawn into the story from the very beginning but then it lost a little steam for me.  I felt like Andy was rehashing the same evidence when what I really wanted was to know more about Jacob.  Still, the book was compelling so I read it quickly.

I’ve heard so much about Defending Jacob since it was published.  It has gotten rave reviews and much has been made about the twist at the end.  I liked this book a lot but wasn’t wowed like so many people have been.  I have a feeling it suffered because of all the hype surrounding it.  I found the twist at the end more confusing than shocking and had to text a friend to ask her about it.  In the end, I think the book is well worth reading but it won’t be on my list of favorites for the year.

Review copy provided by Random House.  I am an Indiebound Affliate.


22 Comments leave one →
  1. May 8, 2014 6:28 am

    Sounds a very good story. Having to defend your son in the face of so much opposition must have been tough on the family as well

  2. May 8, 2014 7:30 am

    My book club just discussed this last week! I think I liked it a little more than you, but would have liked to hear more about Jacob, too.

  3. techeditor permalink
    May 8, 2014 8:15 am

    Yes, you’re right about being underwhelmed because of all the hype you heard about the book. I have that problem often with overhyped books.

    I had the same problem you did with the end, confusion, at first. But I thought about it, then understood, then got angry when other reviewers got it all wrong. 🙂

    Even though the story is narrated by the father, you really need to pay close attention to the mother’s reactions to get this story right.

  4. May 8, 2014 10:48 am

    My bookclub read this last month. I, too, arrived at the story after all the hype but I still enjoyed it. I was surprised by the ending. It was an interesting bookclub discussion to hear the views of those with children vs those without.

  5. May 8, 2014 10:53 am

    Sounds like a really interesting premise, but also a lot like the British tv series Broadchurch!

  6. May 8, 2014 11:17 am

    Hype can really do a book in. I have heard some good things about this one but so far, I haven’t felt the need to seek it out. Books that center around teens scare the hell out of me. Mostly because my son is now in that age group and although I am no saint, I am sure there is a whole lot going on that I do not know about. The what ifs keep me up at night.

  7. May 8, 2014 2:41 pm

    I listened to the audio version and ended up loving it. I can’t speak to the reading experience of it, whether I would have been as taken with it. I do know though that hype can sometimes raise our expectations to high–that’s happened to me before and probably will again. I am glad you liked it though, even if not loved it.

  8. May 8, 2014 4:22 pm

    I am always a bit reluctant to read books with a lot of hype….so I appreciate your review. Now I can make an informed decision.

  9. May 8, 2014 5:22 pm

    I’ve heard so much about this book but don’t think I could read it – sounds way too disturbing!

  10. Patty permalink
    May 8, 2014 6:10 pm

    I have to admit that it was disturbing but I loved it.

  11. sandynawrot permalink
    May 9, 2014 5:49 am

    I know what you mean about hype…you build it up and build it up in your head and it can almost never match your expectations. But I read this a long time ago, before most of the hype, and I can tell you that I was highly disturbed. Like Ti, the teen thing freaks me out. But the end truly haunted me.

  12. May 9, 2014 7:11 am

    I loved this one and thought the twist was awesome. Glad u had a chance to read it.

  13. May 9, 2014 8:22 am

    I loved this book and it reminded me a bit of Jodi Picoult…making you think about how far you would go for someone you love.

  14. swright9 permalink
    May 9, 2014 1:24 pm

    Yeah I thought it was an enjoyable, fast thriller but didn’t totally love it. But it kept me reading. The twist at the end was creepy!

  15. May 9, 2014 8:50 pm

    I am looking forward to reading this one someday and am usually happier to read a book after all the hype has died down (unless I read it first , of course :)).

  16. May 10, 2014 9:49 am

    I do still want to read this one because I have heard such great things about it. It’s too bad that it didn’t live up to your expectations. Hype can totally ruin a book, I so agree with that.

  17. May 10, 2014 1:01 pm

    good honest review. I think you’re right about hype and how expectation can be let down by this

  18. May 10, 2014 4:54 pm

    I wasn’t wowed by this either. Always good to know I’m not alone when that happens!

  19. May 11, 2014 8:33 am

    I listened to Defending Jacob on audio and I think that made a big difference! I think there were plot points that made the story a little weak, but the excellence of the audio narrator made me ignore them!

  20. May 12, 2014 12:36 pm

    You know, I also read it after it had gotten a lot of hype. But it was still last year some time – so less hype than you faced. And I have to admit that I thought it lived up the hype – for the most part. Very good, not great.

  21. May 14, 2014 4:44 pm

    I haven’t heard any of the hype on this one, and after reading your review, I’m wishing I had heard about it before.

  22. bookingmama permalink
    May 21, 2014 7:58 am

    Sorry this one didn’t work for you. I wonder if you would have enjoyed it more if you read it right when it came out!

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