Not going to lie, when I saw this cover I thought zombies. Which is, a me problem, but what there are in The Taking of Jake Livingston are ghosts! This book feels sinister in parts, in the emotional turmoil and subject matter. But if you can handle the trigger warnings, then you’ll be greeted with an intriguing and fast paced story about rage. Keep reading this book review for my full thoughts.
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.
(Disclaimer: I received this book from Netgalley. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)
TW: suicide attempt, suicidal ideation, school shooting, incest, pedophilia, rape attempt, racism, homophobia, parental abuse
The Taking of Jake Livingston was a book that I had to put down a few times. It is chilling and as someone who has the fear tolerance of a pebble, I needed some distance at some points especially considering the trigger warnings. Overall, The Taking of Jake Livingston balances intense character detail – both of Sawyer and Jake – with action that will leave you gasping. From the racism Jake experiences – which made my blood seriously boil – to Sawyer’s chapters, this book is intense!
Heart wrenching is probably how I’d describe The Taking of Jake Livingston in one word, okay two words. All these moments of abuse and being lost in our own thoughts. The insults and bullying, the pain and hurt, which can compress into a festering wound. All the anger and pain that can be warped, when indulged, into something more deadly. But The Taking of Jake Livingston is also a book about how when we give into rage, it can become an all consuming fire. What I mean about it being a character study, is that it’s almost like watching two boiling pots.
Wondering just when we will reach our boiling points. The last straw before it bubbles over. Because of this tension, while the pacing for the beginning feels slower, there’s this constant pit-of-your-stomach dread. While this book was scary and intense for me, I loved how it is all wrapped up and the themes. How the consuming rage of anger and revenge and retribution can fuel you and also destroy you. All the moments when we needed a moment of support, someone to listen to us, help us.
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