THE TAKING OF JAKE LIVINGSTON

Spooky, atmospheric, and layered.

Eleventh grader Jake Livingston fights for survival when the ghost of a school shooter starts to haunt him.

Besides dealing with being the only Black kid in his grade, Jake also must contend with the ghosts he sees every day. Remnants of the “dead world” envelop every aspect of his waking life, ghosts distract him in school, he astral projects at night, and now he’s the target of a particularly incensed spirit. Sawyer Doon, a White boy who committed a mass shooting at a neighboring high school, has set his sights on Jake, seeking to possess his body and commit more atrocities from beyond the grave. Newfound friends Fiona Chan and Allister Burroughs, a new Black student at St. Clair Prep, assist Jake in his quest to vanquish Sawyer and protect those he loves. Meanwhile, diary entries from Sawyer himself pepper the novel, offering a glimpse into what can drive someone to violence. Jake, who is gay and dealing with the stress of being closeted, not only manages supernatural antagonists, but everyday racism and microaggressions as well. His experiences supply crucial social commentary and insight into the ways discrimination can isolate and depress young adults. Lush and emotive prose chronicles Jake’s journey, though the novel’s short length and brisk pace leave some crucial aspects of the plot feeling underdeveloped.

Spooky, atmospheric, and layered. (Paranormal. 12-18)

Pub Date: July 13, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-984812-53-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

IF ONLY I HAD TOLD HER

A heavy read about the harsh realities of tragedy and their effects on those left behind.

In this companion novel to 2013’s If He Had Been With Me, three characters tell their sides of the story.

Finn’s narrative starts three days before his death. He explores the progress of his unrequited love for best friend Autumn up until the day he finally expresses his feelings. Finn’s story ends with his tragic death, which leaves his close friends devastated, unmoored, and uncertain how to go on. Jack’s section follows, offering a heartbreaking look at what it’s like to live with grief. Jack works to overcome the anger he feels toward Sylvie, the girlfriend Finn was breaking up with when he died, and Autumn, the girl he was preparing to build his life around (but whom Jack believed wasn’t good enough for Finn). But when Jack sees how Autumn’s grief matches his own, it changes their understanding of one another. Autumn’s chapters trace her life without Finn as readers follow her struggles with mental health and balancing love and loss. Those who have read the earlier book will better connect with and feel for these characters, particularly since they’ll have a more well-rounded impression of Finn. The pain and anger is well written, and the novel highlights the most troublesome aspects of young adulthood: overconfidence sprinkled with heavy insecurities, fear-fueled decisions, bad communication, and brash judgments. Characters are cued white.

A heavy read about the harsh realities of tragedy and their effects on those left behind. (author’s note, content warning) (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2024

ISBN: 9781728276229

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Jan. 5, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2024

IF HE HAD BEEN WITH ME

There’s not much plot here, but readers will relish the opportunity to climb inside Autumn’s head.

The finely drawn characters capture readers’ attention in this debut.

Autumn and Phineas, nicknamed Finny, were born a week apart; their mothers are still best friends. Growing up, Autumn and Finny were like peas in a pod despite their differences: Autumn is “quirky and odd,” while Finny is “sweet and shy and everyone like[s] him.” But in eighth grade, Autumn and Finny stop being friends due to an unexpected kiss. They drift apart and find new friends, but their friendship keeps asserting itself at parties, shared holiday gatherings and random encounters. In the summer after graduation, Autumn and Finny reconnect and are finally ready to be more than friends. But on August 8, everything changes, and Autumn has to rely on all her strength to move on. Autumn’s coming-of-age is sensitively chronicled, with a wide range of experiences and events shaping her character. Even secondary characters are well-rounded, with their own histories and motivations.

There’s not much plot here, but readers will relish the opportunity to climb inside Autumn’s head.   (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: April 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4022-7782-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Feb. 12, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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