Jake Riley: Irreparably Damaged

Jake Riley: Irreparably Damaged

by Rebecca Fjelland Davis

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Jake Riley is a nice guy.
Jake Riley is a loser.
Jake Riley is a good friend.
Jake Riley is dangerous.

Everyone has a different idea about Jake. Lainey's friends think he's her boyfriend. Lainey's mother thinks he's sad. Lainey's guidance counselor thinks he is a bad influence on her.

None of these people really know the truth about Jake. Not even Lainey.

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Jake Riley is a nice guy.
Jake Riley is a loser.
Jake Riley is a good friend.
Jake Riley is dangerous.

Everyone has a different idea about Jake. Lainey's friends think he's her boyfriend. Lainey's mother thinks he's sad. Lainey's guidance counselor thinks he is a bad influence on her.

None of these people really know the truth about Jake. Not even Lainey.

By the time Lainey learns the truth about Jake, she no longer has to wonder about one thing.

She knows he's dangerous.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
This first novel handles strong subject matter with, unfortunately, a less than sure grip. Farm girl Lainey, the narrator, is first met as she and Jake, son of Lainey's dad's temporary farmhand, are "disemboweling" fireflies; soon after, he yanks up her shirt to expose her "tits." Although she's upset-and although she knows that Jake has just been released from reform school-she still agrees to hunt raccoons with him and, later, helps him amputate a squirrel's injured leg. Readers who get past these unappetizing scenes may be frustrated to find Jake and Lainey's developing friendship periodically interrupted by disturbing behavior (e.g., he holds her down against her will). While Davis successfully creates an aura of menace around Jake, she never quite convinces readers of Lainey's ambivalent feelings, and rather too neatly transpires to keep Lainey and Jake in contact. The action gets a sensationalistic spur when Lainey one day goes to check on her baby calves in the barn-and finds Jake in their midst, groaning, his pants unzipped (the author leaves the actual details to readers' imaginations). Jake threatens to kill Lainey if she tells anyone. While Davis eventually makes interesting points about how kids get written off (the school counselor has labeled Jake "irreparably damaged" in his file) and explores Lainey's awareness of the injustices visited upon Jake, these developments come too late. It's hard to imagine an audience for this novel. Ages 14-up. (June) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Davis paints her novel in varying shades of gray with a story line that the reader wishes could be simply black and white. Farm girl and tomboy Lainey finds herself the object of attraction for her neighbor, Jake. At first, it seems that the reader might be in for a standard tortured romance tale, but Jake is a troubled youth, and the author reveals just how troubled as the book proceeds and Jake's relationship with Lainey gets scary. Rather than creating just a simple, slasher/stalker story, Davis humanizes all the characters involved, making it infinitely more disturbing for the reader, whose sympathies can be with any character at any given time, including with Jake. Seemingly Davis's intent, it makes for quite an uncomfortable read, albeit one that should be read and then discussed. There are far too many ambiguities and mixed messages throughout-including the portrayal of many adults in a negative and untrustworthy manner-to simply leave the book without further analysis. This story is not light. Thank heavens for Lainey's no-nonsense, intriguing new friend, Arcadia Knowles, who provides a bit of a break from an otherwise too-heavy plot, but the story is crucial, especially for young women who find themselves in Lainey's situation. VOYA Codes: 4Q 4P J S A/YA (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Broad general YA appeal; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12; Adult and Young Adult). 2003, HarperCollins, 272p,
— Matthew Weaver
Children's Literature
When Jake comes to live with his father on Lainey's Central Iowa farm, he strikes up an uneasy friendship with Lainey. Fresh out of reform school, Jake is a strange blend of moral fortitude and threatening menace. He tells Laney that his school file says he is "irreparably damaged" by his experiences. Even Lainey's own father tells her that it is "too late to raise Jake right." Still, Lainey and Jake hang out, even working together to save an injured squirrel. But when Jake makes improper advances toward Lainey, her feelings of friendship turn to fear and loathing. Jake, who feels he has nothing left to lose, threatens to kill Lainey. The only one who seems to take him seriously is Lainey herself. Some may find it disturbing that these characters have easy access to weapons and seldom face repercussions for obtaining them. Though the dialogue has a redundant, stale flavor to it, the author has a knack for keeping the reader in suspense. The climax keeps you hanging until the final few pages. 2003, HarperCollins, Ages 12 to 16.
— Christopher Moning
School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up-Lainey, 14, is being tormented by the son of a worker on her dad's Iowa farm, a boy who has been labeled in his high school counselor's file as "irreparably damaged." Jake's emotional maturity was badly stunted by his experiences in a juvenile-detention facility and he seems to be incapable of acceptable social interaction. When Lainey expresses her fears about him, her mother won't take her seriously and her father assigns both of them chores, believing that hard work is the cure for all the world's ills. Readers are drawn into a drama that feels real despite the novel's flaws-of which there are a few. Early on, Jake rescues a squirrel from certain death by amputating its leg; it's unclear whether this is an act of cruelty or kindness. Jake's threats against Lainey (both sexual and physical) are vivid and menacing for her as well as for sympathetic readers. The school counselor's coldness and the English teacher's insensitivities show Lainey's unreliability as a narrator, while, at the same time, her perceptions seem like those of a scared ninth grader. Her friends run the gamut from one who is socially and emotionally naive to another who becomes sexually active in spite of her own better judgment to a new girl who fascinates Lainey because of her apparent self-assurance. Arcadia's arrival on the scene and her connection to Jake seem tacked on rather than smoothly integrated. Nonetheless, this is a compelling read with credible and complex main characters. An excellent discussion choice.-Francisca Goldsmith, Berkeley Public Library, CA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
This probing exploration of whether a ninth-grader can already be "irreparably damaged" is upsetting and scary. Jake has recently moved from reform school to his father�s place on Lainey�s family�s farm. He taunts and hurts Lainey, but she�s caught inside a paradox: she knows that he�s truly dangerous, but she also resents the school�s labeling of him and snaps instinctively to protect him. Meanwhile, Lainey�s parents are equally unhelpful, refusing to believe her, so Lainey is caught in confusion between silence and words. Davis�s writing style works perfectly because it seems invisible. Everything from farm details to the atmosphere of dread is fully believable. Jake�s threats, which begin as sexual, eventually progress to a plan of killing Lainey with a .22. Several horrifying ends can be imagined along the way, but the one that actually occurs is no less grim for being unpredictable. (Fiction. YA)

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Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.32(w) x 7.48(h) x 1.01(d)
Age Range:
13 - 17 Years

Meet the Author

Rebecca Fjelland Davis grew up on a farm in Iowa. She now lives in Mankato, Minnesota, where she received an MFA at Minnesota State University. She spends her days and nights teaching English and humanities, writing, and cycling competitively.

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