Jake Livingston is a student at a private school and is the only black kid in his class. He often feels like he’s singled out and picked on by other students as well as his teachers. On top of this, Jake can also see ghosts; he’s a medium. This causes him to often withdraw from other people, which is understandable. Later, we find that one ghost, Sawyer, has it out for Jake. He knows that Jake can see him and is determined to make his life miserable.
Sawyer had a lot of trouble growing up. His father didn’t accept him, was abusive, and his mother didn’t do anything about it. Sawyer states that he enjoys the male body and is often found starting at other boys. His mother tried to make him do things like learning to shoot a gun and spend time with his uncle repairing stuff around the house basically to “make a man out of him” (hard eye roll). Sawyer had attempted to commit suicide multiple times and often had an urge to hurt others. I don’t want to give away how Sawyer died and what led up to it, but we all know that he did die since he’s a ghost.
I had conflicting feelings while reading this book—kind of like a love-hate relationship. I just had so many questions while reading. Jake and his brother don’t have a close relationship at all. His brother is younger but pushes Jake around. I wanted to know why they weren’t close. What happened? His mom is a pilot and is away for days at a time. She never asks what’s going on or why he’s always so quiet. I wanted more backstory than what was given.
Jake eventually makes two friends at school. Fiona and Allister. Fiona is Asian and understands the racism in the school. Allister is a new kid, so Jake is no longer the only black kid in his class. Later, Jake opens up to them about seeing ghosts, and they accept it with no questions asked (really?!!). The way some scenes played out was a little too convenient which left me feeling frustrated.
As things progress, readers begin to see some similarities between Jake and Sawyer. They’re both withdrawn, have no friends, and are often picked on because they’re different. Jake begins to harbor anger towards those around him after racial remarks are made during a class discussion. I was actually in my room, yelling for Jake to calm down, worried about his reaction. I felt like he was slowly turning into Sawyer. Jake decides that he will no longer let people push him around and decides to fight back.
The story felt a little rushed, and I think there was room for more character development. Some of the questions I had were answered towards the end of the book, making me feel better. I took time before writing this review to sort through my likes and dislikes and find a way to express them without giving too many spoilers. I give it three stars. I enjoyed the plot but think that it could have been better.
Have you read The Taking of Jake Livingston? What are your thoughts?
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