William Landay’s new legal thriller is one of the big buzz books of the season. Comparisons to Scott Turow’s Presumed Innocent, arguably one of the best and most popular courtroom dramas ever, are ubiquitous, as are comparisons to John Grisham.
Why for teens? This one involves two 14-year-old boys. One murdered, the other accused.
Start reading on Scridb.
Adult/High School–Fourteen-year-old Benjamin Rifkin was stabbed on his way to school and pushed down an embankment to die alone. Assistant DA Andy Barber recognizes this as a high-profile case and is ready to prosecute any suspects. Then he discovers that his eighth grade son will be charged–Jacob had a knife, motive, and left a bloody fingerprint on the body. It will take all of Barber’s skills to ensure his son survives this ordeal, guilty or not. Barber has his own damning past, leading to the identification of a possible “killing gene,” further complicating Jacob’s defense. In fact, the most successful element of the story may be Barber’s enlightening explanations of prosecutor and defense-attorney strategies. An imaginative structure keeps the narrative moving forward. Each chapter is interrupted by court transcripts, and at first it’s confusing that Barber himself is testifying–it’s unknown if he’s defending his son or his own actions. Slowly it’s revealed that there are actually two trials. Jacob’s guilt or innocence is a matter of interpretation, keeping tensions high as more information comes to light and his trial progresses to an unpredictable conclusion and shocking aftermath. Readers never hear Jacob’s point of view, but the story will still appeal to any teen even slightly interested in old-style Grisham novels or a law career. Although not graphically violent, the story takes some very dark and potentially disturbing turns. Give this one to mature teens willing to examine morally challenging situations.–Priscille Dando, Robert E. Lee High School, Fairfax County, VA