Book Review: Jacob Have I Loved

I finally finished this book, which is by one of my favorite authors: Katherine Paterson. Indeed, Bridge to Terabithia is pretty much my favorite book of all time.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve read better books, but Bridge had a profound effect on me as a young lad, which effect has continued into my adult life.

Unfortunately, Jacob Have I Loved is NOT as good as Bridge. Truth is, I found it pretty disappointing. There was plenty of truth and nice craft in the book, but it was a little overwrought and Louise, really, is just a bit obtuse and somewhat difficult to really fall in love with.

Jacob Have I Loved follows Louise from when she is fourteen and living on Rass Island with her family. She has a twin sister, not identical, named Caroline. And for as long as Louise has been aware of the world, Louise has felt jealous of the attention heaped upon her sister. Caroline is prettier, remarkably talented, and has a more delicate constitution. Louise spends her days with her friend Call, crabbing and making extra money.

The book takes place over a nearly 10-year period during the 40s. Thus, the events of the time are involved in the book, but only cursorily.

Jacob Have I Loved is a classic coming-of-age book, told from 1st person perspective. Louise is a smart, ambitious girl and seems like she could be a very good person, but she tends to be incredibly selfish. She has a chip on her shoulder and can’t seem to see past her resentment of her sister. For this reason, I just didn’t like the kid very much.

It’s a nicely written book, with truthful and genuine voices for the young people and some enjoyable humor. The family dynamics seem a bit caricatured, but maybe that’s how folks who live on an isolated island would behave.

But as the book drags on into Louise’s adult life, as she finally heads off to college and then nurse midwifery, there is a distinct impression that Ms. Paterson had an ending in mind for this story and couldn’t quite let it go. Thus, when the ending does come, in a sort of poetic karma moment, it feels a lot less catharsis-like than it really should.

Thus, I can’t give this book more than 3 pens out of 5. And I don’t know a kid who would enjoy the book very much, so why would it get a Newberry? Please keep in mind that Paterson is, again, one of my favorite writers, but I don’t feel this book measures up to her ability.

About jaredgarrett

Jared Garrett is the author of Beat, a YA scifi thriller, and its forthcoming sequel, both published by Future House Publishing. A new series, debuting in January 2016 and also published by Future House, kicks off with Lakhoni, a fast-paced rescue adventure in a world reminiscent of Aztec culture, to be released in January 2016. He self-published Beyond the Cabin, a novelization of his childhood in a cult, in December 2014. Both Beat and Beyond the Cabin were Whitney Award nominees, and his story Song of the Wind, received honorable mention in the Writers of the Future contest. In addition to writing, he's spent fifteen years in adult education and is an accomplished public speaker and workshop leader.
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