Title: Finding Jake
Author: Bryan Reardon
Publisher: William Morrow
Publication Date: February 24, 2015
Source: copy received for honest review through TLC Book Tours
Plot Summary from Goodreads:
While his successful wife goes off to her law office each day, Simon Connolly takes care of their kids, Jake and Laney. Now that they are in high school, the angst-ridden father should feel more relaxed, but he doesn't. He’s seen the statistics, read the headlines. And now, his darkest fear is coming true. There has been a shooting at school.
Simon races to the rendezvous point, where he’s forced to wait. Do they know who did it? How many victims were there? Why did this happen? One by one, parents are led out of the room to reunite with their children. Their numbers dwindle, until Simon is alone.
As his worst nightmare unfolds, and Jake is the only child missing, Simon begins to obsess over the past, searching for answers, for hope, for the memory of the boy he raised, for mistakes he must have made, for the reason everything came to this. Where is Jake? What happened in those final moments? Is it possible he doesn’t really know his son? Or he knows him better than he thought?
It was hard for me to go into this novel and not compare it, at least in the beginning, to We Need To Talk About Kevin. There are some basic similarities: a fiction novel about a school shooting, told from the perspective of a parent of the shooter. However, Finding Jake quickly dovetailed into its own unique tale, as there were important differences that became apparent early on. Most importantly, Jake is only a suspected shooter in the killing that takes place, and you spend much of the novel trying to figure out if he was actually involved or not. Related to that, Jake is not nearly so damaged (demonic?) as Kevin in Lionel Shriver's novel. These details, paired with the fact that the narrator is Jake's father Simon (a self-critical stay-at-home dad), give you a novel that tells a story unlike any other.
With an event so catastrophic as a school shooting at its core, it's easy to expect that Jake will be the center of this novel's universe. However, I found that Simon's story was truly the driving force for most of it. When he realizes that Jake could be a killer, Simon delves into the last 17 years of his parenting to figure out where he could have gone wrong. Did he socialize Jake enough? Did he let him hang out with the wrong friends? As the parent who was primarily responsible for child-rearing for so many years, it's easy to see how Simon would want to overanalyze even the most minute decisions he made as a father through the years. Did he do the right things for his son? Does he even truly know him?
I found Simon's perspective to be engaging and relatable--yes, likely because I, too, am an overly-critical-of-myself stay-at-home parent, but even if I wasn't, Reardon writes this character with a clarity that brings Simon's reality to life for any reader. Simon's job has been his kids for nearly two decades, and now he finds that one of them may have committed a horrible atrocity. How can he not second guess his entire life as a father? His journey is heartbreaking, but also intriguing, as his position as a stay-at-home dad (vs. the more common stay-at-home mom) adds a distinctive twist to the narrative.
I do have to note that, as well-developed as Simon's character is, I felt that his wife (Rachel) was given short shrift. Even though Simon is central to the novel, Rachel's actions are important enough to the story that I should have been able to get a better read on her. However, I often felt there was a disconnect between her personality and her actions, and was sometimes left scratching my head at why she made certain decisions (at one point, she basically abandons Simon during a fairly critical moment in the book, which based on the knowledge I had of her previously, seemed unfitting). This is not a huge detractor from the novel, but worth mentioning, as I felt it was quite a contrast from Simon's character.
That detail aside, this book was well worth the read, and I was hooked from page one. While comparisons to novels like We Need to Talk About Kevin might make you start reading Finding Jake, by the time you finish it, those comparisons will be a distant memory. This novel has a powerful, emotional story to tell, and a unique perspective from which to tell it.
As always, much thanks to Trish and TLC Book Tours for including me on this tour!
HERE. And connect with Bryan Reardon on Facebook.