SPOILER WARNING: These book discussion questions are highly detailed and will ruin plot points, if you have not read the book.
Title: Defending Jacob
Author: William Landay
Page Count: 421
Genre: Legal Thriller
Tone: Suspenseful, Disturbing
1. Did you like Andy Barber as a character? What words would you use to describe him?
2. Do you think he looked at Jacob in a realistic light?
3. Do you think Laurie, Jacob’s mother, saw her son more clearly than her husband did?
4. What words would you use to describe Laurie?
5. What happened to Andy and Laurie’s relationship once Jacob was accused of murder?
6. The title of the book is Defending Jacob…was Jacob the main character? If not, who was?
7. Were there points of view that you wanted to hear more of? Is there any part of the story you wanted more of?
8. Do you think Jacob murdered Ben Rifkin?
9. Is Jacob a likeable boy?
10. What was Dr. Vogel’s opinion of Jacob?
11. What was Andy’s reaction to seeing Dr. Vogel vs. Laurie’s reaction?
12. Do you think that Andy and Laurie were good parents?
13. Do you think that Andy Barber should have been on the case since it involved the same school his son went to? Do you think there was a conflict of interest?
14. Why did it take so long to interview the kids at Ben’s school? Were the kids helpful to the authorities?
15. Jacob has two friends, Matt and Derek. How did each of them affect Jacob’s case? Did they both continue to be Jacob’s friend after the trial started?
16. Why does Andy search Jacob’s room for the knife instead of asking Jacob if he had one? What did Andy do with the knife? Do you think he was obstructing justice? Would you have done the same?
17. Later, Laurie does something with a different knife? What does she do and why? Would you have done the same?
18. How far should a parent go to protect their child? Did Jacob need their protecting?
19. It is learned that Jacob enjoys violent erotica. He wrote and posted an account very similar to Ben Rifkin’s murder on a violent erotic website. After learning this, could you still see Jacob in a neutral light? Why do you think he posted his story online?
20. What dark facts about Jacob does Derek reveal to Andy when Andy visits the boy’s home? Why doesn’t Andy know or have noticed any of these facts before? Do you think Laurie knew?
21. What was your opinion of Neal Logiudice (pronounced la-JOO-dis)?
22. Do you think Andy’s view of Loguidice changed?
23. What was your opinion of Jonathan Klein?
24. Who do you think had the better opening statement in Jacob’s trial, Klein or Loguidice?
25. Andy thinks Leonard Patz, a registered sex offender, killed Ben Rifkin. Why? Do you think Patz had anything to do with the murder?
26. What ends up happening to Leonard Patz?
27. What did you think of Bloody Bill Barber, Andy’s dad? Was he likable?
28. What was outcome of Jacob’s trial? How did the Barbers celebrate? What went wrong while they were there? Does this prove anything about Jacob?
29. If you believed that Jacob was a murderer…why do you think he was?
30. Andy never told Laurie about his family’s violent history. Why? Would you have told if you were him? How did Laurie react to hearing about Andy’s past? What would your response have been?
31. There is science examining a possible “warrior gene”. Do you think that nature could outweigh nurture in the development of a human being?
32. What do you think of the structure of the book? Was it hard to follow?
33. What did you think of the pace?
34. Did you like the ending? Were you shocked by it? If you were the writer, what ending would you have chosen?
35. Did Defending Jacob remind you of any other books? What books would you recommend to someone who liked this book? Why?
William Landay’s website
Lit Lover’s book discussion questions
Authors at Google: William Landay
SeattlePI interview with William Landay
SeaCoastOnline review of Defending Jacob
The Washington Post review of Defending Jacob
Explaining “nature vs. nurture”
If you liked Defending Jacob, try…
Midwives by Chris Bohjalian
The Confession by John Grisham
The Good Father by Noah Hawley