This is what I want when I say I want a YA horror novel. Like this is the type of content I look for in my horror movies so I really enjoyed seeing that in a book. Epecially when, I am wanting to span out to more horror books it’s good to know that there are definitely ones that feel like they are movies.
This is a mostly spoiler-free review with slight references to plot twists.
Disclaimer: I loaned this book out of the library with the intention of reading and reviewing it honestly. The featured image is my own. The summary is taken from Goodreads. All opinions expressed are my own.
Title: The Taking of Jake Livingston
Author: Ryan Douglass
Narrators: Michael Crouch, Kevin R. Free
Year Published: 2021
Audio Hours/Number of Pages: 7h30m/257 pgs
Publisher: Random House Audio
Cover Art/Designer: Corey Brickley
Genre: Young Adult ~ Mystery ~ Thriller ~ Horror ~ LGBTQ+ characters
Links: Goodreads || The Storygraph
Format read in: Audiobook (Library copy)
CW/TW: (Taken from The Storygraph) Bullying, Gun violence, Sexual assault (attempted). Violence, Murder, Racism, Homophobia, Child abuse. Mass/school shootings, Death, Suicide. Gore, Animal cruelty (torture of bugs), Domestic abuse.
Get Out meets Danielle Vega in this YA social thriller 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 sixteen 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.
I knew in the first few minutes of me reading this that I absolutely would love this book. I knew that would be one of my favourites of last year (when I read it). I also knew that it would stay with me for awhile and it still has stayed with me all through this year – even though I’m very late with the review.
It definitely deserves all the hype it received and so much more. It took an easy concept of a haunting and a medium and just elevated it to a much higher level; one that thrilled me and made me want to find more horror books. Especially ones that make me feel the way The Taking of Jake Livingston did.
The characters were written so, so well. There’s two point of views. Jake Livingston (the titular character) is one of three African-American students and he’s very much not popular. He’s a target for harassment and racism (because you know when you’re covering racial topics in class, you have to play the devil’s advocate…). I think he wishes he were just invisible. Especially to ghosts and especially to Sawyer Doon, the other point of view, and a new ghost. How did he die, you might wonder? Well… A school shooting. Which he initiated.
It’s a bit difficult, because I don’t want to say that I support or like Sawyer. He’s written so well that you do feel bad for him (just a bit and not connected to his actual usage of a gun). He is strange, but also he’s had a very difficult life. But he’s not given a point of view to garner him sympathy from the reader – he’s there because he has had terrible things happen to him and he chose the wrong way to communicate his feelings. Plus he didn’t receive enough help and gun control 😐.
The book is more than just a haunting, it’s more than just (unfortunately) a school shooting. It’s about racism, it’s about injustice. It’s about being pulled between two places, between two versions of yourself.
I loved Jake as a character. He’s definitely a favourite of mine if I have to make a list. I rooted for him all the way, I quickly changed my sitting position when the action was happening (even though I had the audio book and didn’t have to turn the pages 😄.
Allister is the absolute cutest ever. He was so cute and I liked him the second that we meet him. He’s instantly funny and I love it. He’s also so sweet with Jake and I really enjoyed seeing them together.
The horror elements in this book were one of my absolute favourites and definitely makes me want to pick up more horror books. I was scared basically the whole time while I was listening to this book. Like full on scared, like the first time I watched The Conjuring/The Ring for the very first time. Or Insidious, my goodness 😅. That type of horror + that type of reaction – that’s what I got in the book.
While I don’t want to say it was easy to read – because it isn’t – it definitely flows so easily. You could easily finish it in one setting or listen to it all in one go.
Also, great spooky read if you’re looking for something to read in October or if you’re like me and read spooky books all year round.
Have you read this book? What did you think about it? Are you like me and give late reviews on books? I’m trying to get better at it 😂. Come chat to me down below about this book or other really good horror books you’ve read recently!