The Taking of Jake Livingston was well written, atmospheric, thought-provoking LGBTQ YA paranormal with heavy topics and horror elements.
The Taking of Jake Livingston by Ryan Douglass
Publication Date : July 13th 2021
Publisher : Putnam
Genre : LGBTQ / YA / Paranormal
Pages : 244
Disclaimer : I received e-copy of this book from the PRH International via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.
This post contains affiliate links.
Get Out meets Danielle Vega in this YA horror where survival is not a guarantee.
Jake Livingston is one of the only Black kids at St. Clair Prep, one of the others being his infinitely more popular older brother. It’s hard enough fitting in but to make matters worse and definitely more complicated, Jake can see the dead. In fact he sees the dead around him all the time. Most are harmless. Stuck in their death loops as they relive their deaths over and over again, they don’t interact often with people. But then Jake meets Sawyer. A troubled teen who shot and killed six kids at a local high school last year before taking his own life. Now a powerful, vengeful ghost, he has plans for his afterlife–plans that include Jake. Suddenly, everything Jake knows about ghosts and the rules to life itself go out the window as Sawyer begins haunting him and bodies turn up in his neighborhood. High school soon becomes a survival game–one Jake is not sure he’s going to win.
The Taking of Jake Livingston was well written YA paranormal with horror elements that revolved around Jack’s ability to see ghosts and his fight against evil ghost. The story was about school shooting trauma, abusive childhood, bullying, homophobia, colour and sex discrimination, parental negligence, sadisms, revenge, sociopathy, depression, friendship, coming out of shell and, fight against wrong and evil.
Writing was engaging, vivid, emotive, and atmospheric. It was written in first person narrative from Jake’s perspective and intermittent Swayer’s perspective in diary format. Plot was intriguing.
It started with Jake struggling at St. Clair Prep for being only closeted black kid, picked and bullied by teachers and students. Him being introvert and not able to talk with anyone, and able to see ghosts in their death loop made his situation even worse. But when kid in neighbourhood turned up dead mysteriously and his house being vandalised with no fingerprints or break in, he was sure it was done by ghost of Swayer, a shooter of Heritage High School, who has escaped his death loop and making his life even more difficult.
It was interesting to read what Swayer wanted and why he was after Jake, how he escaped his death loop and why he murdered people at his school and was still killing after death.
Characters were realistic and flawed. Jake was amazing throughout the book. He was silent kid, didn’t talk to anybody, wasn’t doing good in studies, hated school and his tormentors but never said a word about it to anyone. Ability of seeing ghosts made him absent minded and lost and no kid wanted to be friends with him. Those who tried to talk with him, he kept pushing them away as he cannot tell anyone about his ability and risk being labelled crazy on top of everything. He was vulnerable, lacked confidence and it hurt my heart to see him easily losing hope, not able to figure out what Swayer wanted and how to fight him. His past was surprising and poignant. It helped in knowing what made him the way he was. I loved how he stood up once again and got strength to fight eventually. His development was great and I loved how he learned to speak his mind, took control of his life and understood his family better.
Swayer was complicated character. I had mixed feeling for him. At first, I felt sad for him for how his family treated him and how he was treated at school. I hated his family for ignoring his mental health and treatment and students at school for not standing up for him. Like Jake, I also felt there was no surprise the kid exploded at the end, he was pushed too far of his limits. But at the same time, I hated him for shooting innocent kids. Those kids who died didn’t do anything to him. He was sadistic and didn’t feel bad for what he did. On contrary he went to killing people, taking revenge against those who did him wrong. Another reason I didn’t like him for how he treated Jake.
Jake’s friends and family was great. I didn’t like his brother at first but he was fighting being a black kid in school on his own way, and I got to know him more as the story progressed and loved how he stood up for Jake whenever needed.
There were lots of heavy topic dealt. It made the story touching and thought provoking. Jake’s ability of seeing ghosts was interesting to read. Most of action sequence happened in astral projection. I struggled with those at first but then I got used to it eventually. Romance provided much needed relief in this heavy story.
Twist and turns were good. It was no mystery who was murdering people and what Swayer wanted but I couldn’t say how things will turn out eventually and how Jake would fight him. Climax was interesting with some character development. End was great and satisfying.
Why 4 stars-
I struggled a little getting into book. It was a bit confusing at some point and it took me time getting used to all out of body experience.
Overall, The Taking of Jake Livingston was well written, atmospheric, thought-provoking and emotive YA paranormal.
I recommend this if you like,
stories with horror/ paranormal element
great character development
astral projection scenes
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