Finding Jake: A Novel by Bryan Reardon (William Morrow Paperbacks, $14.99, 288 pages)
Bryan Reardon’s Finding Jake offers an unusual twist on a story that should never have to be told in the first place. Quick – school shooting. You didn’t even flinch, did you?
In Finding Jake, Simon is Jake’s father. At a young age he encourages Jake, an introvert, to befriend another boy, Doug, who is a loner, ostracized by his peers, angry, and – we unfortunately find out later, a sociopath.
Simon is a stay-at-home dad who grows distant from his attorney wife, Rachel, and mostly plays the role of “good dad,” as he is at once tolerant of and troubled by Jake’s relationship with Doug.
And then, it happens. Jake is implicated as an accomplice and, as the truth unfolds, Simon becomes obsessed with “finding” him. Is he dead or alive? Was he involved?
The story is mostly about perceptions and judgment. Simon is somewhat of an outcast in his home parent role, Jake is different from most kids, and Doug is bullied by his classmates. It turns out that people are eager to jump to conclusions about things in order to make themselves feel better. Simon himself is not immune to this as he draws conclusions based on his experiences; conclusions he must examine and re-examine throughout the novel.
And there is a hero in the story; a likely or unlikely one who speaks loudly via his silence.
Finding Jake examines a tragedy from the point of view of innocent bystanders, the ones that must live on – not the perpetrator of evil; therein lies its uniqueness. The book is quite well-written in parts, but is somewhat inconsistent overall. Nevertheless, the reader is eager to get to the end, and author Reardon admirably and capably holds one’s attention from the first page to the final one.
A review copy was provided by the publisher.
“I devoured Finding Jake.” Alice LaPlante, author of Circle of Wives and Turn of Mind.
“Finding Jake tells the harrowing tale of a deadly school shooting from a father’s perspective… The suspense is killing, but it’s nothing compared with this father’s anguish as he tries to find his son – the real boy, not the one he thought he knew.” New York Times Book Review
Dave Moyer is a public school superintendent in the greater Chicago area, and is the author of Life and Life Only: A Novel.