Book Review: The Taking of Jake Livingston by Ryan Douglass

It’s not enough that Jake Livingston is one of the only Black students at his exclusive private school, or that he’s gay, or that he likes drawing more than sports. He also can see ghosts. For much of his life, they’ve existed in the background—he sees them in death loops, but they don’t cross over into the world of the living to interact with him.

That changes when Matteo Money, survivor of a high school shooting and Jake’s neighbor, is murdered In his bathroom. Days later, he finds the initials S.A.D. written in blood, Sawyer Doon, the shooter at Matteo’s school who killed five before shooting himself.

Powered by anger and desiring vengeance, Sawyer identified Jake, suffering from low self-esteem, as the ideal host through which conduct his revenge tour. Realizing he’s at risk, Jake decides he needs to learn as much as possible about Sawyer to be able to effectively resist him.

With his friends Fiona and Allister, he steals Sawyer’s journal which traces his path from troubled teen to murdered. Ultimately, Jake will need help from both the living and dead if he hopes to overcome his nemesis.

THE TAKING OF JAKE LIVINGSTON is incredibly creative and thought-provoking. In a small volume, it addresses so many important issues: bullying, racism, negative LBGTQ+ attitudes, and other traumas. As Jake was exposed to Sawyer’s rage, he might have found that some of it mirrored his own but that he never expressed.

Personally, I had a hard time visualizing many of the scenes where Jake interfaced with ghosts; the descriptions confounded me. Additionally, I wanted a little more information about how the “rules” of the spirit world worked: it felt like there were many inconsistencies. My biggest challenge is that Jake did the one thing he was cautioned not to do, risking everything, and his behavior flummoxed me.

Thanks to Penguin Teen and NetGalley for an advanced reading copy of the book and Nina for the RAOK of the finished version!