Book Review: 'Finding Jake'

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Bryan Reardon. William Morrow, 261 pp. $26.99

This book was captivating. It was never likely that it would have a happy ending, and yet I couldn't put it down.

In the same vein as "We Need To Talk About Kevin," Bryan Reardon's "Finding Jake" revolves around a school shooting. Simon Connolly is a stay-at-home dad who is called to a local church with the other parents at the school after a shooter came into the school and killed 13 students. Slowly, families are either reunited or notified of their loss, and allowed to leave. At the end of the day, Simon is the only parent left in the church. His daughter was released with his wife, but his son, Jake, is still missing.

Despite rumors that Jake had a more direct involvement in the shooting, Simon and his family press on to find him.

Interspersed into the present-day story are anecdotes of Jake's childhood. Beginning with the moment Simon learned his wife was pregnant to the current situation, Reardon gives us a glimpse into this family through its patriarch. Jake was always a quiet boy. He preferred to play alone rather than with the other neighborhood children. After Simon tells him to be nice to everyone, he starts to befriend Doug, another odd child who consistently experienced harassment from other students.

This book was captivating. It was never likely that it would have a happy ending, and yet I couldn't put it down. I finished it in one sitting. Either the truth comes out that Jake was the shooter, or his disappearance is proof of a much more devastating reality. Either way, it's heartbreaking.

It does seem that Reardon was intentional in how he developed his characters and plot lines. This isn't a black-and-white book. It's easy, when news of another school shooting breaks, for a spectator to neatly categorize the situation. Either it's a mental health issue or it's the product of too many guns too readily accessible. Testimony from neighbors and "friends" confirm this: the shooter was quiet and reserved. He didn't play well with others.

Sometimes it is the case, it's inaccurate to state otherwise. But sometimes a quiet kid is a quiet kid. Sometimes he prefers to play alone. Reardon also understands that in every situation, families are involved. Every person has a childhood and a group of people who love and cherish him. Villain or not, everyone has a history and everyone is human.

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