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The Taking of Jake Livingston

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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.

246 pages, Hardcover

First published July 13, 2021

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About the author

Ryan Douglass

7 books572 followers
Ryan Douglass is an author from Atlanta, Georgia. He is the author of the New York Times bestselling YA horror novel, The Taking of Jake Livingston, and the poetry book Boy in Jeopardy.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 2,635 reviews
Profile Image for myo ⋆。˚ ❀ *.
826 reviews6,903 followers
January 28, 2021
this book was short but very good with the pacing, i enjoyed how it dealt with black queer trauma and microaggressions when it comes to going to predominantly white schools. can’t wait to see what the author writes next.
Profile Image for farith.
342 reviews463 followers
Shelved as 'need-this-like-air'
December 23, 2020
gay and spooky:
Profile Image for Nilufer Ozmekik.
2,315 reviews44.1k followers
December 30, 2021
Jake Livingston’s story reminded me of Jamie Conklin, also black teenager, raised by single mother ( without rebellious brother) who can see ghosts and try so hard to keep it as secret. But this one is focused on micro aggressions and black queer drama with more Get out meets Dear White People vibes.

It’s more thought provoking and challenging reading with such a frightening, jaw dropping scenes scare the living daylights out of you!

The school shooting trauma, invasion of insects, the pain of being outcasted, shunned from society reflected so realistically! You get frightened, you get shaken, you feel sad! All of the sensitive issues including homophobia, violence, bullying, abuse are boldly approached.

Dark and complex part of the story overshadowed the slow burn romance but it was still effective, provocative, unique!

I don’t know how many times I jumped off from my couch and screamed! Honestly some chapters are way too much intense!

I finished in one sit and I enjoyed it a lot! I wish it would be a little longer! But I think my neighbors cannot tolerate more screams coming from me! So I think this book already gave me enough thrill for me today!
Profile Image for aly ☆彡 (hiatus).
346 reviews1,175 followers
December 23, 2022

I haven't read any horror books for some time now (I think the last time was from Madeleine Roux) so this feels like a breath of fresh air but I don't think I find myself enjoying this one as much. Let's just go on with what I like about the book first:

The pretty cover. It gives me a whole Frankenstein vibe for some reasons and I love the the colour palette. It what makes me want to read this book in the first place. Book cover first, plot later (lol).

Addressing the racism and microaggression faced by the main character for being both people of colour and gay. I find Jake's life experiences important in providing societal commentary and insight into how discrimination can isolate and depress young people (if I were to be critical about it, you know?)

The horror in this book is not entirely my favourite (I'll tell more why) but I do appreciate the direction that the author is going for in this book. I specifically find the death loops intriguing.

Undeniably so, there were also some other things that fell short and doesn't work for me.

Underdeveloped world-building. The book is short which made it super easy to read and get it over with but the world-building is poorly wirtten. The atmosphere of the novel was inconsistent because there wasn't much to latch onto at the start, and the author didn't provide enough information to grasp Jake's condition. I don't think I truly understand the death world this book is trying to portray. Especially when it suddenly involved Jake's ancestors. Or why Jake can see ghosts and deem as powerful or Sawyer's equal.

The concept of possession and dreams in horror books is actually not my cup of tea. The book starts great. However, after few pages, I found the story to be quite flat. And honestly, I was kind of bored not until the plot picks up again towards the end. It's not the author fault though, just a matter of preferences (I guess?)

Allister's presence in Jake's life seems didactic and abrupt. Even when the book does not put their relationship as the main focus, I still feel theirs as insta-love. Therefore, I don't really feel any sort of connection between the two simultaneously making the queer representation felt scant.

Characters. As much as I would complain about a one-dimensional character, this book is being far-fetched because Sawyer is so complex and multifaceted that the proffered discussions in his chapters are insufficient. Gun control, school massacres, and mental health are all issues that need to be tackled outside of the private matter but were done poorly. Meanwhile, not much can be gained for Jake as a character either. All readers would get besides being a boy who can see ghost is an anxious and gay person. It is pretty disappointing.

I am not sure if reading thriller and horror book consecutively is why I didn't find myself enjoying this as I expected myself to be (especially when your previous read was better). I truly wanted to love the book I do, but I couldn't find myself entirely impressed.
Profile Image for megs_bookrack.
1,606 reviews10.7k followers
June 21, 2023

Outwardly, Jake Livingston seems like your average teen.

He struggles with many of the same issues his peers do, however, Jake's life is made more complicated by the fact that he can see dead people.

For the most part, the unsettled spirits are harmless, stuck in their death loops, repeating the same actions over and over again. He passes them by every day.

Then there is Sawyer. A troubled local teen, who a year prior, shot and killed six kids at a nearby high school and then subsequently took his own life.

Sawyer's spirit is still so angry and he's not done with his terror. Sawyer has plans and intends to use Jake in order to execute them.

Suddenly, everything Jake thought he knew about navigating the world with this gift is flipped on its head. He's in unchartered waters.

When bodies start turning up in his neighborhood, Jake knows he needs to learn the new rules, no matter what it takes. His life and all he loves depends on it.

The Taking of Jake Livingston was one of my most anticipated books of the year. I preordered it months ago and was so excited to get to it.

I decided to listen to the audiobook on my annual Labor Day Weekend road trip. One of my favorite things to do is pick out which audiobooks I will listen to on the journey. I travel alone and can be in the car, depending on traffic, anywhere from 4-to-6 hours, each way.

So, there and back, listening on 1.8 to 2x speed, I can get a lot of precious reading done.

While I enjoyed many aspects of this story, I will admit, it wasn't quite gripping enough to keep my mind from wandering.

The beginning, as I was meeting Jake and learning about his life and gift, I was completely focused. After that, it sort of wavered in and out for me.

Now thinking back, I don't remember much. I'm not blaming the book entirely. I am sure a lot of the blame lies within myself. I had a lot on my mind and wasn't giving it the attention it deserved.

There was some good humor and I felt the premise was unique. I actually would like to read it again someday, at which time I will read my hard copy. I certainly enjoyed it enough not to unhaul it and would recommend it as a Teen Scream for the Spooky Season!

I think the bottom line is, I didn't read this under the best circumstances and my reading experience suffered because of it. With this being said, DO NOT let my experience stop you from giving this one a shot.

This is a good book. It's well written with interesting characters, great social commentary and fun Horror elements. I will definitely be picking it up again at some point and giving it another try!

Profile Image for The Artisan Geek.
445 reviews7,264 followers
Want to read
May 12, 2021
It's been over one and a half a year of waiting and I'm glad to see how neat the cover art came out! Patiently awaiting the release date :)

I am always up for horror! Especially when it's black literature! I need it NOW.

You can find me on
Youtube | Instagram | Twitter | Tumblr | Website
Profile Image for Gina Adams.
651 reviews55 followers
December 2, 2021
Thanks to the publisher and edelweiss for an early copy!!

I’m heartbreakingly unimpressed with this story. Let me begin by saying I’m forever grateful for the recent uptick in stories about Black boys, especially Black queer boys, just being boys. The heavy racism topic stories need to be told, of course, but so do Black stories of all genres and characters.

Unfortunately, this book just wasn’t good. It’s about Jake Livingston, who can see ghosts. The ghost of a local school shooter, Sawyer Doon, starts heavily interfering with Jake’s life. Jake, of course, sets out to stop him.

That’s what this story is about, but there’s no why. I don’t know why Jake can see ghosts, or why Sawyer came after him specifically. So much of this story is messy, unexplained, and just not fleshed out.

I can’t tell you any personality trait about Jake other than him being generally anxious. You don’t learn anything about his past or childhood. You don’t learn about what he wants to do with his future, either. This is just kind of one of those stories that’s so in the present that it doesn’t even matter who the characters are.

The weird thing is, you get a ton more information about the school shooter. He actually has his own POV in this story - his journal entries from the weeks leading up to his rampage. Immediately, knowing I was reading from his perspective made me uncomfortable. I don’t wanna say it’s actually school shooter apologia, but it does make you feel bad for the guy. There’s also a notable lack of discussion of Sawyer’s actual acts of violence. I don’t think they were necessary or anything, but that coupled with the view into his mind just give you an honest soft spot for him which seems harmful or insensitive. I think troubled kids do deserve our compassion and attention, of course. But by this time he’d already committed the murders and I just wasn’t in the mood to feel bad for him. He also murdered some people from beyond the grave which was just confusing.

All the paranormal stuff in this story was confusing. There were astral projections and body snatching and other realms and an astral family sword and ectomist and so much weird shit that just seemed to be slapped in in order to keep the vibes spooky. Jake randomly has new powers revealed whenever it’s convenient, like the ability to see auras or when he needed to take sleeping pills at the school so he could wake up in an astral projection at the school. It all seemed like plot devices and Jake didn’t seemed invested in his own powers at all.

The romance was strangely paced. So was Jake’s family’s backstory. There was an incident with his dad that just got told at the strangest and most convenient times to the story, and that made it feel so detached. He was kinda mad at his mom and you found out she didn’t stop his dad from doing something to him. And later he was happy with his brother and you found out he did stop the dad. Like this incident was kind of used as the only litmus test for whether his family treated him well or not.

Like I said, I’m glad there’s a spooky Black queer book coming out. How could we not be glad about that??? And I think the genre coupled with the awesome cover will get a lot of teens to pick it up. I think teens may be more lenient on this story and find more to appreciate about it. I’d still put it on displays at work and recommend it to the kids. But it just didn’t really work for me in the slightest.
Profile Image for Mwanamali.
378 reviews289 followers
September 19, 2023
It takes self-esteem. It takes knowing that your reality is not up for debate. And last but not least, it takes assertiveness.
Meet Jake Livingston, his life isn't easy. I can't figure out what I hate more: seeing the dead or being the one Black eleventh grader at St. Clair Prep. Not only does he have to deal with ghouls and ghosts reliving their deaths or loitering about, he is also gay and closeted which also serves as a bit of a nightmare for him.

Most times, Jake wants to be invisible. To let the world pass him by and leave him alone. But the world won't let him. Neither will his classmates. One of them was particularly antagonistic, a bonafide racist bully right out of a small-town Stephen King horror.

Things are just a bit much for Jake. He's a sensitive soul, one with the weight of the dead world on his shoulders. When he meets Mwana-approved manic pixie dream boy Allister, things finally seem to be taking a step in the right direction for him. He even sees the world differently from the drab grey tableau always trying to drown him,
The sun is out, the leaves sweeping the concrete in dramatic typhoons. Something about the chaos is romantic--maybe because it threatens to blow us away.
But of course, as with all good things, there has to be something that makes you fight for it. Sawyer Doon, a school shooter who killed himself after his massacre is hellbent on revenge. And he wants Jake's power to do it. He exhausted Jake,
I wish I could have my peace back. That I could sit down at a table and enjoy a sweet treat without worrying that every good thing is only temporary. Without feeling like a murderer is breathing down my neck.
Sawyer didn't reveal his plans immediately. He taunted Jake, punished him, used his fears against him. Jake felt powerless for so long, until his mentor and his ancestors reminded him otherwise.

At the core of this book is a young man who learns to believe in himself, fight for himself, signify his worth with his actions, address his trauma. This is a layered complicated story. And while we do get a fight between ghosts straight out of a Marvel action sequence, it's still a story that demands consideration and thought without losing itself or tethering itself to a soapbox. There's an on the nose message about being here and queer as well as representation matters but as this is YA, it doesn't have to be subtle.

There are chapters from Sawyer's journal which punctuate Jake's story blocks. They could have been utilised a bit more adroitly providing more setup, payoff and suspense. However, these didn't make me fail to enjoy the story as it often does in many YA fantasies. I'd credit these issues to an unfastidious editor.

I do hope this story gets a film adaptation in the art style of Coraline or Into the Spiderverse because it's deserving of it. We deserve to see the fightback of Jake Livingston come to life.
Profile Image for Jessica .
2,129 reviews13.8k followers
August 13, 2021
TW for abuse, sexual assault, school shooting, homophobia, racism

Wow, this book as heavy. I wish I had read more into this book because it heavily deals with a school shooting. As a teacher, I try to avoid books about this topic because it hits too close to home. There was a really dark plot line in here where Jake is being haunted by the spirit of a boy who had been responsible for a school shooting and was currently killing more people. While the dark plot line just wasn't working for me personally, I also found it really hard to get into the horror/paranormal aspect of this book. It was a bit too complicated for me and hard to follow. Jake could see spirits, jump to other times, and be possessed...and even more? I still have a hard time explaining this book and it was hard for me to fully grasp the extent of what Jake could do. The little romance added in was cute, but only came into play very briefly and really for the only last 5% of the book. I would have liked more of that throughout the hole book instead of just briefly at the end.

When going into a horror book, I just need to do some more research before seeing if the book will be for me. Most of my lack of enjoyment of this book was definitely because of personal preferences.
Profile Image for rylanne burdette.
424 reviews61 followers
August 1, 2021
i wanted to love this one so much; it was one of my most anticipated reads of the month. but i was just so confused with the paranormal/horror aspects and the pacing of the story. i didn’t understand what was happening half the time and had to go back and reread parts of it to try and figure out what was going on. i did like jake and allister together though; i’m glad they got their happy ending.

trigger warning for racism, child abuse, attempted rape, violence, school shooting, homophobia.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Colleen Scidmore.
386 reviews156 followers
February 7, 2022
I’m beginning to realize that I like the darker side of YA in my books. I don’t know exactly what that says about me (😱😱) but I think that’s why I ended up loving The Taking of Jake Livingston. It wasn’t a cookie cutter book that most of YA is becoming now a days, at least in my personal opinion anyway. This had depth and emotion and a main character with grit. ⁣

Jake is an outcast, and the only other black student (besides his older, more infinitely popular brother Benji) at an all white Prep school. Jake has a secret that makes him withdrawn from the rest of the world. He can see the dead. Most of the time they’re harmless but definitely distracting. That is until Sawyer starts haunting his house and his life. Sawyer a troubled kid while alive is now a powerful spirit hellbent on vengeance. And he plans on using Jake to get what he wants and finish what he started before he took his own life.⁣

This was a really powerful book. Definitely thought provoking. You have two different characters from two different backgrounds going through some similar situations. Each going through a crises of sorts. ⁣

Jake is a black teen attending an all white school where some of the white students are not keeping their racist tendencies quite a secret. And the school who’s supposed to protect it’s students is not stepping in to help. ⁣
On top of that he has to deal with seeing dead people everyday pretty much all day. Which makes it hard keeping dead world and the real world separate sometimes. ⁣

Then there’s Sawyer, who even though he is white he had his own reasons for being an outcast. A lot of it not being his fault. He was dealt a crappy life with a crappy family. His poor excuse for a dad is gone, his mom neglectful and his sister always trying to rile him up or get him in trouble. Sawyer was definitely not a good guy but if someone had intervened and really tried to help him he might have turned out differently.⁣

I felt very emotional while reading both Jake and Sawyer’s stories. It pulled at my heart strings, blew up my brain a couple of times and had me reaching for a trash can, ready to expel my lunch on more than one occasion. This was not a feel good book a lot of the time. It felt real and raw which I can respect. ⁣

Among the dark moments there were sprinkles of romance, friendship, and some not so sinister ghost sightings. Which saved my psyche from going full on black for the duration of the book. ⁣

If you like your YA a little dark and enjoy horror and/or the paranormal I highly suggest this attention grabbing book.⁣
𝐓𝐡𝐚𝐧𝐤 𝐘𝐨𝐮 𝐏𝐞𝐧𝐠𝐮𝐢𝐧 𝐓𝐞𝐞𝐧 𝐟𝐨𝐫 𝐭𝐡𝐢𝐬 𝐠𝐢𝐟𝐭𝐞𝐝 𝐞𝐀𝐑𝐂 𝐢𝐧 𝐞𝐱𝐜𝐡𝐚𝐧𝐠𝐞 𝐟𝐨𝐫 𝐦𝐲 𝐡𝐨𝐧𝐞𝐬𝐭 𝐫𝐞𝐯𝐢𝐞𝐰.
Profile Image for katie ❀.
120 reviews477 followers
June 5, 2021
[3.5] this was the first horror novel i've picked up in too long, and i'm considering reading them more often (i need a scare once in a while lmao).

the taking of jake livingston is a social thriller that follows jake, who has the ability to see replays of ghosts of the dead in their last moments. on top of that, he is one of the only black students at his private school and faces racism from other students and teachers alike. and then a ghost, sawyer doon, the shooter at his school from years before, begins to haunt him.

this is a mysterious, bloody story that sent shivers up my spine. the atmosphere and writing transported me into this sinister place, whether it be walking through a misty fog or glancing behind you because of the sensation that eyes were watching your every move.

although i loved the representation, i just... wasn't a huge fan of the characters?? they felt like they were trying too hard to be dimensional, jake's friends in particular, and it was not working for me. but i did love the gays.

this story was short, almost too short, and i would have gladly read more of it. bottom line: i should maybe read horror more often.

thank you to the publisher for sending me an arc.
Profile Image for Adri.
986 reviews799 followers
July 6, 2021
CWs: some graphic images of death, injury, blood, gore, and violence; references to suicide ideation and suicide attempts; mentions of child abuse, domestic abuse, and rape; some references to racism, bullying, and homophobia; explorations of mass shootings and gun violence

The Taking of Jake Livingston is a dark, challenging, fast-paced paranormal thriller. Where it shines for me is in its ruthless social commentary and in the way the story examines how it feels when identity is violently stripped away from you, figurately and literally. The possession story arc also shines light on the forcible colonization of the body—again, in a literal sense—and how the goal of the colonizer is to weaponize the colonized against each other and get them to finish the colonizer's work. With Jake constantly being surrounded by ghosts, dying, and trauma, I think the story also comments on how Black communities, especially, are not afforded the luxury of healing from trauma—both personal and generational—because how can you heal from a wound that doesn't close?

The atmosphere and the imagery at play in the story are also highly effective, because there is a constant and pervasive sense of danger, tension, and darkness. There is definitely a grotesque, horrific edge to the story, and I appreciate how drastically that adds to the heightened emotion of the characters. There is a constant sense of this situation being very much life-or-death for the characters involved, and that intensity makes the stakes feel real and consequential. Especially for a supernatural YA horror story, this book definitely goes so much darker and deeper than I ever expected it to, and that's part of what almost makes it hard to look away from the page.

With that said, I struggled a bit with this story in terms of structure and character. Structurally, the story is split between between Jake's point of view and diary entries from Sawyer, the vengeful spirit who took his own life after enacting a deadly high school shooting. Personally, I didn't see the need for Sawyer's POV to be so prevalent. The content of his diary entries not only further perpetuate the stereotype of the traumatized "lone wolf" shooter who comes from a broken family, but also felt somewhat sensationalist to me.

It's true that this stereotype is a stereotype for a reason, but without further nuance, there's the chance that it could further stigmatize mental health, when there are people with mental health conditions and trauma who do not then turn around and become violent or murderous. While the intent may have been to "humanize" him a bit more (and clearly NOT to romanticize or justify his actions), I think most of his diary entries border on being disturbing just for the sake of being disturbing.

But even more than that, I felt a strong sense of disconnect with Jake as a narrator and protagonist. I want to be absolutely clear: I do NOT mean that I "wasn't able to connect" with Jake because of his background or identity, in fact I found those to be the strongest tenants of his character. I don't think he's "unlikeable" or "unrelatable," or whatever thinly racist euphemism reviewers are using these days to dismiss marginalized characters. When I say I felt disconnected from him, it's because he's literally disconnected from everything and everyone around him, to the point where his family and friends are constantly mentioning how spaced out he tends to be. What's happening with Sawyer is very much all-consuming for Jake (and with such high stakes, why wouldn't it be?) but besides his ability to see ghosts and the fact that he's gay, I really have no sense of who he is, even after having read the entire book.

And, for me, that really stems from how the emotional and relationship-based dynamics are literally disconnected from the ghost/possession storyline. Again, trying to break the connection between himself and Sawyer is Jake's number one priority, and understandably so, but because of that, it feels like his connection with the characters around him has to be put on hold until *after* that's been dealt with. The things Jake is struggling with and the emotional dynamics he has with those around him don't really get addressed or come into play until the very end of the story, and it left me wishing that those issues had been better integrated to even further intensify the stakes. I do really appreciate the amount of character development and the themes of rebuilding bridges, claiming your identity and your history, and combating erasure by simply existing, but I also feel like those ideas came to fruition a bit too late.

Even with all that aside, there were some world-building elements central to the story that felt hazy at best. Basically, there's this idea of parallel planes, essentially, that connect the world of the living with the world of the dead, and Jake can traverse between these planes. There's also a supernatural substance called "ectomist" that gathers in areas with strong ghost activity and is only visible to the medium's eyes. I wish there had been more detail and more clarity surrounding this "magic system" (for lack of a better word), because there were times where it was hard to picture what exactly was happening, especially in moments of intense conflict where all of these elements come into play at once.

So as you can tell, I'm kind of left in the middle. I think, thematically, this story is parsing some really important questions and using conventions of the genre to evocative, powerful effect. But with that, I still wish there was more character depth and that the relationship dynamics didn't feel so much like an afterthought. But I'm still excited that more people will finally get a chance to read this one soon, and I would love to see what Ryan Douglass writes next.
Profile Image for h o l l i s .
2,478 reviews1,895 followers
July 14, 2021
Hm. I'm leaving this unrated for now (for good?) because my thoughts are kind of all over the place.

I think, when you're neck deep in the spooky thrilling creepiness of this story, you're in it. You're having a good scary time. The problem is when you pause, put the book down, and start wondering.. why. Why are these things happening, what is this world, what is the history.. and, the biggest most perplexing thing, why did the author choose to go in this direction with the villain.

I honestly think this would make a great movie because the atmosphere and the ambience, though hella confusing, still did a great job at creeping me out. Some of the visuals were, again, sometimes confusing but somehow still managed to be translated into my brain. But so much of this needs more. Yes, the story is short, so I guess a lot of this surface level non-explanation could be blamed on that but.. why was it short? Why wasn't this longer, more fleshed out, given context? So much could've been improved, including the romance.

If you want a short spooky dose of a novel that brushes up against topics of racism and homophobia, without making them the central theme, and that will likely keep you on the edge of your seat, you could probably do worse. I just wish it could've done.. not better, maybe, but more

** I received an ARC from the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **


This review can also be found at A Take From Two Cities.
Profile Image for Bethany (Beautifully Bookish Bethany).
2,208 reviews3,694 followers
June 15, 2021
Actual rating: 3.5 stars rounded up

I want to say up front that 1. I somehow didn't realize this was a posession story, which I now realize should have been kind of obvious. Regardless, I usually stay away from horror involving possession as it's not my favorite thing to read. 2. This book frequently has a dream like quality that I also don't prefer. So what I'm saying is, this was 3.5 stars for me largely because of personal reading preferences, not because I don't recommend the book to people who would be into it. Okay, that said let's get into the review!

Jake is a Black, closeted gay high school student. Oh and he can see ghosts. In fact, he's being haunted by the vengeful ghost of Sawyer Doon, a school shooter who then shot himself. The story flips between Jake's perspective and the diary entries of Sawyer who clearly needed better mental health support but instead lived in neglectful and abusive circumstances. His story is both terrifying and tragic.

This book is definitely horror and there are super creepy scenes involving ghosts, insects, and murder. It's also quite dark and intense, maybe more so than I was expecting. It deals with with difficult subjects including homophobia, abuse, attempted sexual assault of a minor, racial microagressions, bullying etc. And there are no easy answers. Because sometimes the people who should be protecting you are themselves the victims of abuse.

That said, despite how dark this gets there are bright spots, like a slow burn romance side plot that (appropriately) never takes over the story. We also get a cool scene where Jake is supported and protected by the ghosts of his ancestors. This book isn't very long, and it doesn't try to deeply address the many issues is touches on. At its heart this is a ghost story and it does what it's setting out to do. But even just the representation here is important. Talking about intersectional identities and how being gay might be hard at times, but being gay and Black comes with an additional set of challenges.

I recommend reading this review which does a great job unpacking what the author got right here: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...

I received an advance copy of this book for review via NetGalley. All opinions are my own.
Profile Image for cossette.
303 reviews256 followers
July 4, 2021
content warnings: racism, school shooting, death (graphic), violence (graphic), mentions of suicide attempt, physical and emotional abuse, mental illness, parental and medical negligence, sociopathy, sadism, attempted rape, revenge porn, gore, homophobia, bullying.
Profile Image for jut.
478 reviews189 followers
September 6, 2021
holy shit!!! this book gave me much more than i was expecting...and i can't even believe i read it in one sitting, everything is so good and even the things you may think "well, i dont care" or "fuck that!" in the end became perfectly solved and done! also, the queer contents in this book may seem not as cool as in other books but i found it completely interesting, to see it put in another view/two different points of views that were different but also had elements so similar to each other. overall, i loved it and it's gonna be the book i'll recommend the next months!
Profile Image for Paperback Mo.
302 reviews81 followers
December 28, 2021
Way too over-hyped, I can see why people love this book but sadly it wasn't for me
I had a really hard time keeping up with all the paranormal things that were going on in addition to all the HEAVY topics like racism, homophobia, child abuse, gun violence etc
Profile Image for Sarah.
329 reviews159 followers
August 20, 2021
Started reading The Taking of Jake Livingston at the end of YA week here on Goodreads. The lists prompted me to remember I had grabbed a copy of this as it seemed very intriguing, there have been comparisons to Get Out.

There are some truly creepy moments in here as our narrator, the main character, Jake can see the dead all around him. They are surrounded by a blue ecto-mist, that’s how he can quickly notice that they are no longer living. But one ghost in particular is haunting him and it seems like it’s almost in pursuit of him. This ghost’s name is Sawyer Doon. He committed a horrific act of violence at his school, a shooting, before turning the gun on himself. The narrative flips between Jake and entries from Sawyer’s diary, giving the reader a backstory. But why is the spirit of Sawyer latching onto Jake? Does he see him as a way back to the world of the living? 👻

The moment The Taking Of Jake Livingston is building up to throughout doesn’t take place until around 80% of the way through, but in my opinion it’s worth sticking with. You will see this certain moment coming without me stating what it is.
I think the horror filled moments are done well and important subjects, such as racist micro-aggressions in a predominantly white school, are also handled well. I do wish that Jake’s relationship with friends (Fiona in particular) and a budding love interest (Allister) were explored even further, but this is quite a quick read. The ending felt satisfying.
Profile Image for Maisha  Farzana .
556 reviews241 followers
September 30, 2021
=》3.5 stars

.......How does it feel to be caught in the middle of something that has nothing to do with you?.....

"The Taking of Jake Livingston " is a YA horror book that will surely make your day better. Just pick it up on a rainy day and enjoy.

"And most days? I can’t figure out what I hate more: seeing the dead or being the one Black eleventh grader at St. Clair Prep. "

"It seems impossible to turn something so pretty so ugly, but it’s not. Everything turns ugly after it’s dead."

♤The Plot: So, this in book we're following Jake Livingstone who is one of the only black kids at St. Clair Prep; the other one is his brother. Being a black kid and fitting in a school full of mischievous white kids is not at all an easy task. It becomes even more difficult when you're a unsociable, silent and awkward kid like Jake. To add to the existing difficulties, JAKE CAN SEE GHOSTS.

"There’s something molding in my gut. Death wants something to do with this place, and it’s dazing. Ghosts, ghouls, and ecto-mist were never meant to be so important, but suddenly they’ve decided to weave their way into my immediate surroundings, too close for comfort."

Yes, he can see ghosts and monsters from the other worlds. He sees them all the time. They are everywhere- standing, shouting, pleading and following. Although most of the ghosts are harmless, there are some dangerous ones too. Just like Sawyer Doon.

Sawyer Doon was a severely depressed, troubled and dangerous teen. He was....before he shot and killed six high school kids last year and finally took his own life. But that wasn't the end of his story. Sawyer is back, now as a powerful and vengeful ghost. He has plans for his afterlife. Plans that include Jack. Beware...Sawyer has made Jack his final target.

"I have to breathe. To be alone and process this. I’m being followed by a menace. He knows where I live and where I go to school.
He is a school shooter.
And I may, for whatever reason, be his next victim."

"Making new friends is awkward as heck. Telling your old friends you want new friends? Even more awkward."

◇I really liked:

* The Creative World-building: It was a very enjoyable, quick and easy read. Though I'm giving this book 3.5 stars but I really liked it overall. Now, let's talk about the good things first. The world building is freaking amazing. The author has successfully created a very vivid world where ghosts *exist* and there are also some cool imaginary creatures. I never knew I have a fascination for ghosts. Well, now I know. Thanks to this book. Enjoyed the descriptions and weird activities of the ghosts and ghouls.

* Praiseworthy Main Character: I loved Jake. Okay? Though I couldn't feel connected with him or his situation, I loved him netherless. His character arc could have been better but well, it wasn't bad. I enjoyed spending time with Jake Livingstone.

* Important Discussions: This book also discusses some heavy and sensitive matters like racism, homosexuality, dealing with homophobia, child-abuse, school bullying, mental health etc. All of these topic are well handled which I really appreciated.

"It doesn’t matter. At the end of the day, you can’t change yourself. So you have no choice but to be yourself. Fuck everyone who has a problem with it."

◇Could have been better:

*The Horror Elements: The horror scenes felt funny and choppy instead of being creepy or frightful. I still liked it as I'm a seasonal horror reader. The atmosphere should have been a little more mysterious and creepy.

* Relationships between The Characters: The connection between Jack and Sawyer is the main focus of the story which isn't dealt very well. And because of the author putting his full focus on that, other relationships were kept on hold for a long time. As a result, not a single relationship has been well developed.

* The Queer Romance: I absolutely love books that have a sweet-cute queer romance story. I expected something very adorable from this book. But I'm disappointed with the love story that have been weaved here. The romance felt forced and rushed. The romantic interest (whatever his name is) dropped from literally nowhere and apparently played zero role in the development of the storyline. Everything about their relationship, from their first meeting to the final kiss, are off-beat. Meh...

* The Ending: I personally think that the book ends in a haste. It could have been much better and heart-touching. Didn't really liked the ending.

Done. Done. Done. Finished it in a sitting.

Review to come.......
Profile Image for Dannii Elle.
2,064 reviews1,478 followers
October 13, 2021
Actual rating 3.5/5 stars.

Jake Livingston is one of the few black students at St. Clair Prep, along with his extroverted and popular older brother. He is introverted by nature and often feels compared to his brother or judged due to the colour of his skin. This only partially explains his isolated school life, however. Jake Livingston has the ability to see and interact with the dead. They appear wherever he is, often playing out their harrowing last moments as Jake is attempting to live an ordinary teenage existence besides them.

I can think of few times I have been as sad to find I did not love a book more, than with this one. Everything about this screamed excellence but I had a few issues throughout that I could just not overlook.

Jake was a very interesting character but I never felt that I truly knew him. There was another character who was provided with their own perspective, often through diary entries, and I wish that Jake had also been given the same chance to share his backstory. Perhaps this would have aided in bonding me with him more. I felt I did know facts about him and an exploration of his emotions frequently appeared, but something about the structure of the story kept me at a distance from really feeling I had a grasp for who he actually was.

I also found this lighter on the horror elements than I had anticipated from the cover, title, and synopsis. This was a dark read but not in an eerie or creepy way. This was the direction I thought the book would take and whilst it did not ruin my enjoyment to not find this not to be the case, it did mean I had to alter my expectations accordingly.

Whilst I was disappointed to find these elements that did not wholly work for me, I also found many others I loved. I adored the inclusivity this contained. I want more books about black, gay teens and I appreciated the focus on Jake's struggles in dealing with lack of acceptance both receive, in his community. It proved truly harrowing to read of Jake's emotions as he is forced to confront the cruelty and harsh treatment that the world contains.

Ultimately, I had a fine time with this book. It wasn't the perfect read for me but I also acknowledge that it doesn't need to be. Far more important is that, with the publication of this book, more individuals have been provided with the chance to see themselves inside the media they consume.

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to the author, Ryan Douglass, and the publisher, Andersen Press, for this opportunity.
Profile Image for destiny ♡ howling libraries.
1,748 reviews5,288 followers
Shelved as 'dnf'
June 9, 2022
DNF @ pg 105 (41%)

I'm so sad to DNF this, but at this point I've recognized that I can either DNF it now with no star rating, or power through the rest of it and inevitably give it a low rating, because this book is not working for me at all. I love the fact that we're getting to see Black queer rep in YA horror, because that's something that is almost unheard of, but the writing is disjointed and not enjoyable, the school shooter's personality feels sensationalized to the point of being a stereotype, and Jake as a narrator simply isn't an enjoyable head to be inside of.

Jake is so emotionally and mentally clocked out from everything and everyone around him that reading this book feels like the literary equivalent of a really bad "brain fog" day (IYKYK). I'd also liken it to a hazy dream sequence, except it's the entire book and it wasn't a pleasant narrative experience.

I would have loved to have enjoyed this book more and I'm definitely open to reading future releases from this author, but The Taking of Jake Livingston didn't work for me. That said, it definitely feels like one of those stories that has an audience, so if you enjoy YA horror, I would still recommend giving it a try!

Representation: Jake is Black and queer; Jake's brother Benji is Black; Allister is Black and queer.

Content warnings for: school shooting, violence, murder, suicide, substance abuse, characters filming and sharing films of sexual activity without consent

I read a final copy I purchased myself, but for the sake of disclosure, I was also sent an early review copy by the author/publisher.

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Profile Image for Alfredo.
387 reviews516 followers
June 9, 2021
A premissa desse livro é ótima, mas poucas coisas funcionaram comigo.

Eu AMEI como Jake foi retratado, enquanto garoto negro e gay, em um ambiente majoritariamente branco. Todos os momentos em que ele falava sobre sua experiência, desde seu plano para que não toquem no seu cabelo a autores que preferia ler no lugar de F. Scott Fitzgerald, foram perfeitos. O romance também me conquistou um pouco, mas não teve grande desenvolvimento ou destaque, então acabei deixando pra lá.

A parte principal, a do horror, me perdeu completamente. O tal espírito do assassino é sem graça, as cenas com ele foram ok, e a resolução do conflito não me impressionou. Entendo a comparação com "Corra!", mas acho que o livro tem uma vibe completamente diferente. Os poderes de médium do protagonista foram mal explicados e tudo me pareceu uma grande confusão. Não assusta, não dá medo, não deixa tenso.

O livro também tenta fazer o leitor simpatizar pelo assassino, com inserções do diário dele, mas, por mais que eu aprecie a escolha de escrever um vilão complexo e multifacetado, achei fracas as discussões propostas nos capítulos dele. O problema do controle de armas, massacres escolares e saúde mental precisa ser discutido para muito além do âmbito privado.

Espero que funcione com alguém, mas pessoalmente não recomendo.
Profile Image for Alec Costa.
227 reviews1,370 followers
October 9, 2022
aquele clássico caso de Histórias Muito Boas Que Caíram No Limbo De História De Preto Boiola Tem Que Girar Em Torno De Racismo E Homofobia. gosto da história e gosto dos personagens, mas acho mt triste q todos os livros de preto q chegam ao mainstream tenham que seguir uma fórmula pra ~chegar lá

o protagonista é muito apático durante 60% do livro, a parte fantástica é mt mal explicada, nada te convence e algumas coisas aconteceram muito do nada. apesar de tudo isso que me incomodou (muito), a atmosfera é mt legal e eu, pelo menos, fiquei mt empolgado com o final

foi uma leitura mt cheia de altos e baixos. acho que esse livro serviu pra me mostrar e me fazer bater o martelo pro fato d q eu não curto mais livro ya... 😭

se vc curte histórias adolescentes com um terrorzinho, talvez vá gostas. do contrário...
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