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Scary As Hell: The Taking Of Jake Livingston

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In “The Taking of Jake Livingston,” Fear Will Find You

Let me warn you now. If you thought 13 Reasons Why was bad… dark, deep, and psychologically haunting… then The Taking of Jake Livingston is worse. Aside from the gothic monsters we have become so familiar with, it is one of the few novels where we find a different kind of horror… the plague of a dead serial killer. This novel is authored by Ryan Douglass, and you wouldn’t believe what happens here.

The Taking of Jake Livingston criss-crosses between two young boys, Sawyer Doon, a mentally disturbed teenager who commits suicide after killing six kids in his high school and Jake, a socially awkward teenager who sees ghosts and is now being haunted by dead Sawyer Doom. Usually, most of the dead people Jake sees are harmless. They are stuck in a continuous replay of how they die. They do not interact with people, move physical objects with their dead hands, or develop a cat-rat relationship with those who can see them. But, Sawyer’s is different.

In The Taking of Jake Livingston, Jake first becomes aware of Sawyer’s presence when he and his elder brother Benji, come home one evening to find the initials S.A.D. imprinted with blood on a wall in their home. With some research, Jake soon finds that they belong to and represent Sawyer Doon, a dead six count serial killer who might have also killed their neighbor’s kid, and is actively searching for new victims. Doon claims he only harms those he was too cowardly to kill while he was alive, but it doesn’t explain why he is haunting Jake, who never knew him.

Sawyer escapes from the loop of his death because he is hell-bent on taking revenge on those who bullied him in high school; teenagers who thought they were more important than he and those who hated him for being homosexual. His endgame is to possess Jake, by isolating him from everyone else, so he can continue his ‘good work’ of dropping his enemies dead like flies. 

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He does this by leaking Benji’s sex recording to the entire school so Jake gets blamed, spilling blood all over Jake’s notebook, and finally pushing Jake to do the unthinkable…. Dead bodies begin to surface in their small town; kids in their bedrooms, in their bathrooms, on the road, and strolling the park, No one is safe from Sawyer Doon. But, only one kid knows who is responsible and is determined to stop him, because the police would not find fingerprints, DNA samples, or the murder weapons at the crime scenes. Jake tries to tell people about Sawyer. He tells his brother that it was this ghost that leaked the sex video, is responsible for his blood stained notebooks, and scribbled it’s initials in their house, but nobody believes him.

After a while, it gets insane and frustrating to keep telling the same story and using the excuse of a dead guy to get out of trouble, so in Chapter 23 of The Taking of Jake Livingston, Jake finally loses it. He picks up a pencil and drives it straight into the palm of a classmate, after the boy makes racist comments at him for being black and socially awkward. While the boy screams and the teacher springs her phone, Jake smiles in satisfaction.  

One part that scares most readers in this story, happens in the same Chapter, when Jake is called to the Principal’s office. He has never been there before for anything bad, but now he is brought in for stabbing a fellow student. Principal Ross gets confused thinking of how Jake should be punished, insisting that it was his fault but Jake doesn’t care. He counters that he is the victim for being dehumanized because he is black. He tells himself, unmoved by his own actions, that “No one can touch me. Not even the teachers. Not even the principal.” Jake has lost credibility now, and no one would believe him about Sawyer, just the way it was planned.

In a bid to truly understand Sawyer, and why his ghost is so determined to make Jake’s life miserable, Jake manages to convince two of his friends to go to Sawyer’s house undercover. While one of them distracts Mrs. Doon (Sawyer’s mum) downstairs, Jake climbs into her son’s bedroom in search of his private journal but gets caught. Later at his house and just before Sawyer’s next attack, Jake goes through the journal.  From how he was bullied and wrongly diagnosed by his therapist, to how he was nearly raped by his uncle and shot by his mother for trying to defend himself, it becomes clear to us, no wonder Sawyer went nuts. 

The novel jumps from suspense to climax, as Jake seeks help to get his life back. But, will he? Will he defeat the ghost that tries to kidnap his soul and possess his body, a ghost that has killed more people while dead than alive? This is Ryan’s first novel, and rumored to have happened in real life and you will not believe how it ends.For those who love a good fright, with twists and turns, The Taking of Jake Livingston may be just the reading material you’re looking for…

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