Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Review: Jacob Have I Loved by Katherine Paterson || That Awkward Moment When You Relate To Insufferable People


Jacob Have I Loved by Katherine Paterson




Pages: 216
Genre: Historical Middle Grade
Publication Date: 1980


Growing up on a tiny Chesapeake Bay island in the early 1940s, angry Louise reveals how Caroline robbed her of everything: her hopes for schooling, her friends, her mother, even her name. While everyone pampered Caroline, Wheeze (her sister's name for her) began to learn the ways of the watermen and the secrets of the island, especially of old Captain Wallace, who had mysteriously returned after fifty years. The war unexpectedly gave this independent girl a chance to fulfill her childish dream to work as a watermen alongside her father. But the dream did not satisfy the woman she was becoming. Alone and unsure, Louise began to fight her way to a place where Caroline could not reach.





I hated reading as a kid, but Katherine Paterson’s Bridge to Terabithia was one of the few books that I read over and over. It’s possible that I’ve read it more times than any other book. I think I related to the artsy rural characters who didn’t fit in with their community. I liked Terabithia so much that I wrote a paper about it as an adult, which got me accepted to grad school. As much as I loved Bridge to Terabithia, I had never read anything else by Katherine Paterson. I thought I should correct that. Jacob Have I Loved is one of her better-known books. I decided to try that one.

Louise and Caroline are twins, but they’re nothing alike. Caroline is beautiful, talented, and popular. Anything Caroline wants, she gets. Louise is the opposite. She’s a tough loner who’d rather be fishing than socializing. Deep down, Louise is painfully envious of Caroline. She wishes that she got attention from boys and had the talent to attend a prestigious performing arts school. Unfortunately, the residents of the small Chesapeake Bay island shower Caroline with praise and ignore Louise. Louise can either allow herself to be consumed by envy, or she can free herself from Caroline’s shadow and forge her own path.




To fear is one thing. To let fear grab you by the tail and swing you around is another.Jacob Have I Loved






This is a character-driven novel. It focuses on Louise and her sibling rivalry with Caroline. The plot is subtle and mostly consists of Louise attempting to differentiate herself from her sister. First Louise thinks she wants to be a hero who uncovers Nazi spies, but that doesn’t work out because she can’t find any Nazi spies on the island. Then Louise tries to make friends with newcomers to the island, but she can’t keep Caroline away from them forever. Then Louise tries to be beautiful and feminine, but she’ll never be as beautiful as Caroline. She’s constantly frustrated that she can’t be as perfect as her sister.

I think this is the type of book that people either love or hate. Louise is kind of insufferable. She’s angry all the time. She treats Caroline terribly and blames Caroline for her own problems. She’s mean to her mother and bossy with her friends. Louise demands to be praised for everything she does. If you can’t stand unlikeable characters, you probably won’t like this book.

That being said, I could relate to Louise. I saw a lot of my younger self in her. (Which is awkward because she’s awful.) Sibling rivalry was definitely part of my childhood. I was never the smartest kid, or the prettiest kid, or the most talented kid in my family. Like Louise, I often felt overlooked. I think it’s important to show sibling rivalry in children’s books. It’s a daily part of life for many kids.

Since the plot is slow and meandering, I’d recommend this novel for older middlegrade readers. Parts of the story would have gone over my head as a young child. Older kids might have more patience and experience. As an adult reader, I appreciate this book. It’s well-written and looks at a subject that isn’t often shown realistically in children’s literature.



Don't tell me no one ever gave you a chance. You don't need anything given to you. You can make your own chances. But first you have to know what you're after, my dear.Jacob Have I Loved










TL;DR: Louise has a bad attitude, but I found the story relatable. It’s about growing up and finding your own path in life instead of being envious of others’ paths.   









23 comments:

  1. I remember this one from when I was in junior high in the 80’s. I always saw it in the library but, judgmental little reader that I was, I considered the title oddly phrased and that put me off. I don’t necessarily mind unlikable characters but in this case... I’m worried that I’d see way too much of 13-14 year old me in Louise. I had a strong case of middle child syndrome back in the day and was probably just as insufferable. And who needs that mirror held up to them? LOL

    ReplyDelete
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    1. The title is oddly phrased. Possibly because it’s a Bible quote, and Bible English is outdated. I also had middle child syndrome. I was a jealous little weirdo as a kid.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  2. This is one I've always thought I should read, and never did. It's a Newbery winner, and I'm doing a sort of open-ended Newbery reading challenge, so perhaps I'll get around to it soon. But it will be interesting to see how much I relate to the main character. I didn't have siblings growing up, until my stepsibs, and since they didn't live with us, there wasn't as much rivalry as there could have been if we lived together. My sister and I ended up really close friends (actually, we started that way, too.)

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    1. I’m trying to read all the Newbery winners, too. It’s a very slow process. If you read this one, I hope you like it.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

      Delete
  3. I love the Chesapeake Bay! And I love Middle Grade fiction! I'm putting this book, as well as Bridge to Terabithia, on hold at the library. Thank you for the review!
    –KB @ thissideofstoryland.blogspot.com

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    1. I’ve never been to the Chesapeake Bay, but I’d love to go someday. I’ve heard that it’s nice.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

      Delete
  4. Is it bad that I never realized that the same author wrote Bridge to Terabithia and Jacob Have I Loved? Considering I love both books, I think it's safe to say it's bad. Anyway, Jacob Have I Loved was a book I read as a child and teenager, and it's one of the first books I remember rereading. I still own my copy and read it from time to time. I've always identified with the twin sister relationship in the book. I relate to Louise in that I always felt like second-best compared to my sister.

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    1. Katherine Paterson has written a lot of books. I need to read more of them because I’ve liked the two I read.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

      Delete
  5. I remember this book from my childhood, but I never read it. I stayed away from those really deep books. 😆 I do struggle with unlikable characters, because I am a character driven reader, though, the story sounds like something I could get into.

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    1. Louise is really awful, so if you don’t like her, you might not like the book. It’s very character-driven.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

      Delete
  6. I'll have to read this. I love character driven stories and this storyline sounds enticing. My sister is 16 years younger than me and that sure made a difference in our relationship. We didn't have to wait to be adults to start getting close, we were close from day one, the age difference was too great for there to be rivalry. I hope you are close to your sibling(s) now. ☺

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    1. If I ever have kids, I want to have them far apart. Being a similar age to your sibling can be difficult. You’re constantly comparing yourself to them.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

      Delete
  7. I loved Bridge to Terabithia. Unlike you I loved to read as a kid and spent my time at the library.

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    1. I wish I had liked to read as a kid. Then I wouldn’t be trying to catch up on all the children’s classics I missed.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

      Delete
  8. I didn't discover Bridge to Terabithia until the movie came out when I was an adult but I do remember this one. I don't remember if I actually read this or not but at some point I owned a copy. That is always a little troubling when you relate to a character who is just awful. It happened to me not that long ago and it was kind of squirmy though I did enjoy the book!

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    1. Yes, it is squirmy. There were a lot of moments when I thought, “I really hope I wasn’t as terrible as this character.”

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

      Delete
  9. It's always weird to me when I find a kid's book that's slow like you've described. There's no way it would have held my attention span back then! I'm glad you were able to enjoy it though!

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    1. I’ve read a lot of older children’s books recently, and almost all of them are slow. Either writing styles have changed, or the Newbery committee loves slow books.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

      Delete
  10. I never read this one, because the cover was juuuust dated enough to look boring instead of charming. Also, I thought it was a love story, and for some reason didn't like those as a kid. Apparently I was unable to read the back of the book? Anyway, I'm glad you liked it. I think most of us cringe at some aspects of our younger selves.

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  11. I love Katherine Paterson. I read both Bridge to Terabithia and The Great Gilly Hopkins as a kid, and despite being traumatized by the endings, I thoroughly enjoyed them. Her characters are so real. More recently I read Jacob Have I Loved, and I found that I could relate to Louise as well. I love the complexity of the situation. You can see where Louisa is coming from, but you can also see that she's acting badly. She could never become who she was meant to be in her sister's shadow. Letting go of things is such an important part of growing up, and this book definitely addressed that. We have to be able to move on and let go of the things that make us petty if we want to grow into the people we can be. If we blame others for the way that we are, we will stay small and angry forever.

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  12. This sounds interesting! I don't mind unlikable characters if I can relate to them. I do enjoy reading about sibling rivalry too. I'm the first born of my tribe and I can be fiercely competitive.

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  13. I think I have owned a copy of this book pretty much my whole life, and never read it. I have at least known of it basically forever, but it's got that L word in the title and for quite a while I was very much against reading books about that L word.

    Great review, and maybe I'll actually read this at some point. - Katie

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  14. I love your insights about how you were like Louise when you were a child (even though you admitted that she's a pain). Let's face it, most kids aren't angelic---I know I certainly wasn't!

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

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