Welcome to my stop on the TBR and Beyond Tours Book Tour for The Taking of Jake Livingston by Ryan Douglass . I love that we’ve been getting more horror for our tours! This one had been on my radar and I’m so glad I got a chance to read this one! Be sure to scroll all the way to the bottom to see the tour schedule for other content creators.
Thank you to Ryan Douglass, G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers & Penguin Publishing for providing me with an ARC for this review
Ryan Douglass is an author, poet, and freelance writer from Atlanta, Georgia. His work on race, literacy, sexuality, and media representation has appeared in The Huffington Post, Atlanta Black Star, Everyday Feminism, Nerdy POC, Age of Awareness, LGBTQNation, and Medium, among others.
His debut novel, THE TAKING OF JAKE LIVINGSTON, is a YA horror out through Penguin/Putnam July 13th, 2021.
About The Book
Title: The Taking of Jake Livingston
Author: Ryan Douglass
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Publishing Date: July 13th, 2021
Page Length: 308
Age Range: YA
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.
Rep: black, queer, gay
Content Warning: Horror has a lot of triggers on its own, but I’m including some triggers that you may not expect going into that genre – racism, school shooting, mentions of suicide attempt, physical and emotional abuse, mental illness, parental and medical negligence, attempted rape, homophobia, bullying.
This was an interesting book, and not something I have read before. I found it very impactful and heart-wrenching (not something I would have expected from a horror book!). It tackles a fair amount of important issues including homophobia, racism, school shootings, mental illness.
The paranormal world took me a while to understand – how it overlays Jake’s world, how ghosts are stuck experiencing their death over and over, and the creatures/monsters exists. I’d say it wasn’t intuitive, but in the end made sense for the world that Ryan created for it. It is unique compared to other horror/paranormal books that I have read in the past – hence why I felt it took a bit of an adjustment for me. I never felt that Ryan explained it in great detail, but we learned from either Jake’s actions or interactions.
Ryan’s writing style, like the world, took me a little bit to get use to. I believe that his writing is accessible though and once you get into the rhythm of his writing, I found myself binging the book. Ryan doesn’t have a flowery writing style (thankfully since I don’t usually enjoy it) and some may find it jarring at times, but I found it perfect for a horror setting. There was always a sense of unease and bleak/darkness in Ryan’s writing style. I believe the lended itself great to the horror genre since we want, as readers, to have atmospheric writing (which I found Ryan had in spades). With Jake always being exposed to ghosts/paranormal, I found the atmosphere to be dark, gritty, and overall spooky – perfect for the genre and/or Halloween!
This was written with mostly Jake as the focus but we do get some chapters from another POV. I loved having these snippets from the other POV to really get to understand that character and their backstory. We usually get these chapters to help fill in gaps that Jake doesn’t know about this character – we either get these as Jake is learning more about the other character, or during a time when the reader needs that POV because Jake isn’t able to show us. I felt connected to our two POVs. Ryan provided us with great details of those character that I couldn’t help but grow to care for the one character – even sympathize – and I always loved Jake. I found that the secondary characters lacked for me. I found myself getting some of them confused – but I wonder if that was me or if Ryan did that on purpose so we felt a greater connection to Jake and the other POV.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. It was darker than I had originally expected – not the standard “dark tone” that you grow to expect from horror – which I personally loved. This is perfect for a Fall/Halloween read – and if you aren’t too scared read it in the dark!