Mini Review – The Taking of Jake Livingston

Author: Ryan Douglass

Publication Date: July 13, 2021

Print Length: 244 pages

Read Date(s): August 1, 2021


Goodreads Synopsis

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.

My Mini Review

I was sucked into this story almost immediately by the writing, interesting premise, and creepy vibes. The exploration of the impacts of bullying was front and center here, and the author did a great job of showing them without pulling any punches. If you are squeamish about bullying, school gun violence, suicide, or abuse, this is probably not the book for you. This story also heavily centered the experience of living as a Black and queer youth, which was compelling to read. The thing I loved most, though, was how expertly the author used the possession story as a brilliant metaphor for how bullying can ultimately chip away at the individual until its effects leave them a shell of their former self, possessed by the impacts of the ongoing trauma, which often manifest as rage or anxiety. Despite having a lot of things I liked and connected to emotionally, the world-building and plot of the book fell short for me. The ending felt a bit rushed and the rationale given for the main character’s biggest decision of the book felt at odds with what he had been trying to do for the rest of the story. The romance element was cute but didn’t feel incredibly relevant to the rest of the story other than to show the main character was queer. Overall, though, I liked more things about the book than I disliked, and it successfully pulled at my emotions despite its flaws. I finished the book wanting more, especially more info about Jake’s powers and the other supernatural phenomena he encountered. Therefore, I rate it 4 out of 5 stars.

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