The Taking of Jake Livingston | Ryan Douglass

Published 13 July 2021

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.

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How was it?

I meant to read a couple of chapters to decide if I was starting this book or another but just a few paragraphs in I was pulled in. This book has a solid plot but it’s emotionally charged and can be quite heavy. Yes there are gruesome murders in it that makes it spooky, but it’s the way it depicts these little cuts that hurt more in the long run that I gravitated toward.

This book dives into trauma and micro agressions but does it in a clever way. Because it’s not just Jake, the black queer kid, that is the target of this kind of death by a thousand cuts, Sawyer, our now powerful and vengeful ghost, was also a target. Both in their own way are somewhat victims of circumstances. In Sawyer’s case it’s not used as an excuse for what he did but showcases what lead him to it. As for Jake the author does a great job at telling what it’s like to surfer race based micro agressions on top of being gay in an unwelcoming environment.

The story is dark and has a lot of paranormal elements in it but it depicts the bullying, violence, and abuse well. I also enjoyed how the story showcased how some parents are more concerned about how bad a child with mental health problems make them look rather than helping the child get better. It’s a hard situating to see, it’s disgusting but feels all too real. In facts, the quotes “She checked on me at  heptfill only to harass my crisis counselor about when I could leave. Threw a fit when Tom said I’d have to decide that For myself.”, or “The trouble with my mother is that she’s too busy pretending problems don’t exist to ever really fixed them.” really got to me.

All the heavy stuff aside the story is visually interesting and I could see a live action version of this. The budding romance was also nice; I could see myself checking out another story about this black queer teen who sees dead people.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Taking of Jake Livingstone is available on The Book Depository, Amazon, Audible and other book retailers near you.

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