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Review of "Jake Riley"

By Rebecca Fjelland Davis
HarperTempest, 2003
Review by Elyse Levesque on May 6th 2004
Jake Riley

The story Jake Riley: Irreparably Damage by Rebecca Fjelland Davis is a story centering on the problems experienced by a newly released juvenile delinquent- Jake Riley. His story is told through the eyes of Jake's neighbor Lainey, who is the main victim to his disturbing actions. Lainey first introduces him to the reader as unbalanced by describing his enjoyment of disemboweling fireflies for their lights. Jake continuously makes sexual advances towards her, to the point of harassment and threatens Lainey with her life. He tells her that his file titles him "Irreparably Damaged" and in an effort to prove the title wrong, she protects Jake even when she believes he endangers her. Davis presents a promising story however, her chosen characterizations are detrimental to the narration because they are unrealistic and show little depth.

There are many examples throughout the book that demonstrate the implausibility of the choices and reactions of the characters. For example, Lainey's mother is rarely described other than to yell, "Don't slam that door," every time Lainey enters or leaves the house.  Then, when Lainey finally tells her mother and father about Jake's threats and advances, they blame her for his actions and buy her calves of her own to teach her responsibility. Lainey faces death threats from Jake throughout half the book and yet the other characters that know do nothing. This leaves the reader dissatisfied and profoundly frustrated because their actions are so unbelievable.

The impression one receives from reading the book is that the character's personalities were taken into little consideration. At the end of the story, what is known about the characters can be summed up in one sentence each, even for Lainey and Jake. Lainey enjoys Track and likes to read. Arcadia is mysterious. Jake is twisted. All of the characters remain flat and do not change which leads the reader to believe that their personalities and characterizations were little planned or deemed unimportant. Due to the lack of depth for each character, their actions seem superficial and unwarranted and because of this, the value of the story is insignificant.

Another problem arises in that the encounters Lainey has with other characters are so similar, that it is hard to distinguish between each event. The variety that is essential to a well thought out plot is lacking. No matter the scene, Jake is always a "pervert" or "sicko." Jailene always talks about her boyfriend Peter. Her parents always reprimand her for not being responsible or respectful to Jake. And Lainey is always scared to death. It is difficult to maintain a clear memory of the stream of events because they are so comparable. Again, this leaves the reader dissatisfied because the characters appear one-dimensional.

The story of Jake Riley: Irreparably Damaged is an interesting concept filled with much potential for success. However, the story fails to live up to readers' expectations and creates a sense of disappointment after its conclusion.


© 2004 Elyse Levesque


Elyse Levesque is currently a High School junior who challenges herself with Advanced Placement courses and advanced credit classes from Syracuse University. She will be applying to colleges in a few months and hopes to study English and Theatre.

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