Defending Jacob by William Landay is at the time of this review, one of the best sellers in the market. How do certain books make it to the top of the best sellers list while others never see the day of light? I have no idea but time and time again, I’ve been disappointed by one of these so called “New York Time’s Best Sellers” and I’m beginning to wonder why even bother with this popular books. With Defending Jacob, it has changed my view of that just a tad bit. Is Defending Jacob a bad book? Absolutely not! But for the book to be so highly talked about as a courtroom thriller, I would expect something more. What I will say is that you really have to stick with the book. Although I got disinterested towards the beginning, it wasn’t bad enough to force me to stop altogether. I was rewarded with a decent “page-turner” experience. But with that being said, this 400+ page book just felt a little too long with many rambling parts throughout it.
Defending Jacob is pretty much about a young teenage boy accused of murdering one of his classmate in cold blood. Its his family’s job to stick by his side to beat the case and have faith in their son. On one side, the father does whatever he must do to believe that his son is innocent no matter the circumstances. In the other corner, his mother has doubts. This book tries to blur the line between good and evil but most importantly, what a parent would do to help protect their only child. You’ve probably heard this phrase a dozen times already but you’ll hear it again here: “Just how far are you willing to go?” Protecting their child is obviously what good parents should do but at what point does it cross the line? Destroying evidence is clearly wrong but not if you make the right excuses in your own mind to defend your own actions, especially when it comes to family members. Does it make it any more right?
The biggest disappointment with Defending Jacob in my eyes are the flat characters. In the book’s defense though, this does portray a more “real” experience for the readers as the Barber family seems like any other family of today’s society. The book is told through Jacob’s father, Andy, point of view and the book see-saws back and forth between the past and present. Throughout the entire book, you’re left with the question of did Jacob really murder his classmate. The characters themselves are decent in that the author can go through great lengths to create a story for them in hopes of getting you attached. It’s OK but not really something to remember once you’ve finished with the book. The author definitely could have shaved out a big chunk of the book based on this alone.
Another thing that many readers won’t like too much with this book is the repetitiveness. Again, in defense of the book, the author tries to portray what actually would happen when something like this happens in real life and in court, you’ll hear the same things repeated over and over again. This is so that everyone can get their facts straight and so that everyone is on the “same page”. As a courtroom drama, Defending Jacob did pretty good. I always looked forward to hearing both sides of the argument (direct and cross examination). This book is a psychological thriller and some readers might have a hard time grasping that concept as when they see the word “thriller”, they immediately think of suspense and action. Defending Jacob is not that kind of thriller. Suffice it to say though, the book does have its moments.
The author in my opinion has a lot of potential. I believe he did a fairly good job at painting a picture for the readers of how a family’s life can get thrown upside down when something like this happens. Being as how I’m not a father myself, I might not be able to relate to this story as well as say someone who is. Defending Jacob, once you really get into, i just spirals you into the whole mess without you even knowing it. The ending to the book was OK. It did the book justice. However, you might be disappointed with the conclusion to the “courtroom drama” issue. Defending Jacob is one of those psychological books that while the characters doesn’t exactly scream excitement, the important part is that it gets you thinking. Because who knows? There just might be a “Jacob” living near you.