Book Review by Sofia (13): Jacob Have I Loved

Tuesday, June 26, 2012


There’s generally a reason why Newbery medal winners are Newbery medal winners. With Jacob Have I Loved, the reason is obvious. The book is poignant and connects with the reader on a much deeper level than many of today’s novels.

First published in 1980, Jacob Have I Loved tells the story of Sara Louise Bradshaw as she grows up on Rass Island in Chesapeake Bay. All her life, Sara Louise feels belittled and outshone by her twin sister Caroline, who always manages to steal the spotlight. The book is told through a flashback, and focuses mainly on the relationship between Sara Louise and Caroline. It tells the story of how Sara Louise, the elder twin by some precious few minutes, struggles throughout her teenage years to form an identity separate from her small island hometown and from the people there.

In the beginning, Sara Louise is content with merely spending her days crab progging with her friend Call and living—at least somewhat—in the shadow of her sister. But when the mysterious Captain Hiram Wallace moves to Rass Island, everything changes. Sara Louise and Call begin helping him fix up his old house, but not long after, a hurricane hits Rass Island. There are no casualties, but Captain Wallace’s house is destroyed. He moves in with Sara Louise and her family for a few days. Sara Louise is struggling with her growing contempt for Caroline and for her grandmother, and with her growing need to leave the island.

Obviously, I don’t want to spoil the whole book for you, so I’m going to leave the summary at that. My impressions of the book, however, are going to take up a whole ‘nother three paragraphs.

Like I said earlier, there’s generally a reason why books are given fancy medals. Katherine Paterson—winner of not one but two Newbery medals—has created a masterpiece. The book is narrated in such a way that readers of all ages can connect to it. I first read the book with I was nine or so and enjoyed merely the surface plot. Four years later, the book is still a favorite of mine. As I’ve gotten older I’ve been able to understand more of the subtle nuances and hidden meanings of the plot that I didn’t get previously. This is a great book because every time I read it, I understand more and more of the plot. It’s addictively multidimensional; the book gets stuck in my head for days on end.

Each character has a separate and unique identity. In some books I’ve read, the characters are the literary equivalent of soda that’s de-carbonated: They taste flat and leave a bad taste in your mouth. In Jacob Have I Loved, though, the characters are more reminiscent of, say, fresh-baked donuts. I can’t wait for more!

All in all, despite a few references that were hard for me to connect with, Jacob Have I Loved is an excellent read. I’d recommend it to anyone who wants to smile, yearn, cry, and come away from the book having learned a thing or two about love and life.