Ghosts and Prep Schools: My The Taking of Jake Livingston Review

I'm not usually a horror fan, but when I saw a new spooky-looking book on Penguin Teen's list for 2021, I was duly intrigued. So if you're not usually a horror fan but you're looking to try out something a little ghostly, let me introduce you to ...

Book Title: The Taking of Jake Livingston
Author: Ryan Douglass
Publisher/Year: Putnam, 2021
Genre: Horror/Thriller
Number of Pages (According to Goodreads): 308
My Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Book description (from Goodreads):

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.

Short and Spooky!

This is a really fast read that kept me turning pages! I loved the character of Jake — he’s a genuinely compassionate person with realistic flaws, and his development throughout the story was great. I was rooting for him all the way, both in terms of defeating the ghost and getting the romance he deserves <3

The book deals with a lot of heavy topics, but I thought they were folded into the narrative really well. Still, definitely be aware of the content warnings before reading! (See the bottom of this review for a list.)

Welcome to the Ghost World

I thought the workings of the ghost world was really interesting, and I kind of wish there had been more development in that area. The world was fleshed out enough that I was able to follow the story easily, but I was really curious to know more about Jake’s abilities.

That said, I tend to like more worldbuilding, so if you prefer getting straight to the action then you’ll like this style!

Trigger and Content Warnings for The Taking of Jake Livingston

This book may not be for you if you're sensitive to discussions/depictions of racism, homophobia, death, violence/gore, parental abuse, bullying, mentions of suicide, gun violence, school shootings, mental illness, attempted rape.

Final Thoughts

Overall, I would recommend this book to anyone who wants a short, spooky read with some well-placed social commentary!

Thanks to the publisher for the ebook review copy! The Taking of Jake Livingston is now available everywhere, so check out the links below if you want to snag your own copy:

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