The Dead Romantics by Ashley Poston (ARC Review)

The cover image of the book "The Dead Romantics" by Ashley Poston, showing two figures lying horizontally on the letters of the title, both reading a book. Also, the description for the book: A disillusioned millennial ghostwriter who, quite literally, has some ghosts of her own, has to find her way back home in this sparkling adult debut from national bestselling author Ashley Poston.  Florence Day is the ghostwriter for one of the most prolific romance authors in the industry, and she has a problem—after a terrible breakup, she no longer believes in love. It’s as good as dead.   When her new editor, a too-handsome mountain of a man, won't give her an extension on her book deadline, Florence prepares to kiss her career goodbye. But then she gets a phone call she never wanted to receive, and she must return home for the first time in a decade to help her family bury her beloved father.   For ten years, she's run from the town that never understood her, and even though she misses the sound of a warm Southern night and her eccentric, loving family and their funeral parlor, she can’t bring herself to stay. Even with her father gone, it feels like nothing in this town has changed. And she hates it.   Until she finds a ghost standing at the funeral parlor’s front door, just as broad and infuriatingly handsome as ever, and he’s just as confused about why he’s there as she is.   Romance is most certainly dead . . . but so is her new editor, and his unfinished business will have her second-guessing everything she’s ever known about love stories.

PublisherA button to add a book to the platform "The Storygraph"A button that says "Add book to Goodreads": Berkley Publishing Group
Page Count
: 368
Release Date: June 28, 2022

*I was provided with an eARC by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!*

CW: loss of a loved one

The Dead Romantics has been on my radar, and frankly on my “most anticipated releases of 2022”-list, for the longest time now – so, when I was presented with the opportunity to read an advanced copy, I jumped at the chance! The official release is still a month away, but I just couldn’t stop myself from reading it and now you will all have to contend with me screaming about my love for it for eternity.

Sometimes, books just find you at the exact right moment in your life and I would say that The Dead Romantics is a prime example of exactly that happening. I’ve had the most fun with a romance in a while, but at the same time, there were instances where I just bawled my eyes out. This isn’t simply a story about love, but also grief and family and we all know I’m drawn to grief-books like moths to light. But at the same time, nothing about this book left me sad. I’d even go so far as to argue and say that it brought me hope, all the warm feelings inside and a whimsical smile on my face once I turned the last page.

THE CHARACTERS 

Florence Day – our narrator throughout the story – is the typical small bean but mighty and messy tornado of a person that I think many of us can relate to. She’s into fan fiction, buying books despite having a massive TBR already and she loves a good love story. In fact, she used to believe in the big love, in finding that one person who might be the exception to the rule, until she got disappointed in the worst ways. And you just understand her reluctance, her despair, and then life just knocks her down some more.
Enter – Benji Andor! He’s meticulous and tall as a tree (one would like to climb) and seemingly stoic, while actually being very kind and considerate once you get to know him a little bit and he definitely wants a happy ending for Florence. I loved him as a counterpart for Florence, although I would have loved it even more if we had gotten to spend some more time with him. I feel like, we, the readers, didn’t get to know him that much, but even Florence acknowledges that several times throughout the story. Their connection is based more on vibes and actions rather than exchanging hobbies and favorite songs, which is fine, but I just enjoyed his character and would have loved to learn even more about him. It really seemed like it had quite the story of his own.

Lee Pace entering the room with one hand on the door frame looking tall and sexy while doing absolutely nothing.
This is Benji Andor for me and I have a feeling Ashley Poston would be okay with that.

Aside from our two leads, there was an array of formidable side characters. We had supportive best friends, authentic sibling relationships and the despicable ex. A stand-out for me was Florence’s dad though, because his presence could be felt on nearly every page and that stuck with me. It very much reminded me of someone I lost and how sometimes a whole town can show up for that person and their family, when things get tough.

THE SETTING

First things first, I loved the supernatural twist to it all. It never felt forced or out of place, but just like something that naturally fit the story.

But the settings in general were so special and intriguing. On the one hand, you have the funeral home and something that usually holds a lot of sadness for people filled with so much life. A thing of beauty really! And then there’s just something so fun about reading a book that takes place within the publishing industry. I don’t know how accurate it is, but it felt like an inside look and gave way to a lot of references to real life publications, which I loved.
Parts of it are in the big city, parts of it are in a small town and it all just made sense?

VERDICT

I don’t know why writing reviews for books I absolutely adore is the hardest thing ever. It might be, because I just want to do a key smash and thrust the book into people’s hands for them to read it, but that wouldn’t be very informative now, would it? I hope this gave you a bit of a clearer idea of just how charming yet quirky I found The Dead Romantics! I genuinely hope that many people will pick it up, because it filled my heart to the brink and I would without a doubt just read sequels where they help different ghosts together. I’m greedy and just want more, please!

Fazit: 5/5 stars! There’s something so incredibly satisfying when an anticipated read turns out as amazing as you had hoped.


My other reviews of Ashley Poston’s work:


Do you plan on reading The Dead Romantics? Let’s talk about that!

The Roughest Draft by Emily Wibberley/Austin Siegemund-Broka (ARC Review)

Publisher: Berkley Publishing Group
Page Count
: 336
Release Date: January 25, 2022

*I was provided with an eARC by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!*

CW: mention of depression, anxiety, sexual content

Even though I know that Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka wrote several YA contemporaries together before, The Roughest Draft was my first experience with their writing and it was their first foray into the adult romance genre. Right from the bat, I have to say that it felt smart, quick-witted and consisted of some really beautiful prose.

Going in, I knew very little about the author duo. However, having read the acknowledgments section as well as being informed by my friend Marie (who has reviewed the book as well, which you can check out here) that they’re married in real life made this whole book feel very meta. The characters, Katrina and Nathan, put so much of themselves in their writing and you cannot help but wonder if the authors did the same. How much of it mirrored their feelings for each other? How much is just pure fiction? I love the intrigue and layers these questions create in your mind as you get drawn more and more into their world.

While this novel was medium to fast paced, I found myself a little bit frustrated with our characters at times, which made me stop every now and then. Their fall out was built up as this huge thing and you could really see the grudge in the first chapters. After all, they hadn’t spoken in four years and hadn’t just cut each other out of their lives, but other people as well. Sometimes, the break up felt a bit too big for what actually transpired though and how easily they found their way back to each other. The hurt and miscommunication between Katrina and Nathan I could eventually understand, also why they were holding each other back, but the ghosting of other characters felt petty.

Ultimately, Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka managed to create a beautiful relationship though. It is flawed and it is perfect, it is real and pure fairy tale fiction at the same time. The kind of stuff you wish your romance was made of. The intimacy between Katrina and Nathan is truly one of a kind, but combines all the best parts of “second chance romance”-tropes as well as “best friends to lovers”-themes.
It also gave an interesting peek into the world of writing collaboratively, which interests me now more than ever, and the publishing world as a whole. As a bookworm and someone who would very much like to write and release a book eventually, this setting was one of my favorite parts of the whole novel.

Fazit: 4/5 stars! Beautiful prose for a really meta love story.


Do you plan on reading The Roughest Draft? Have you read other books by the author duo? Let’s chat!

Weather Girl by Rachel Lynn Solomon (ARC Review)

Publisher: Berkley Publishing Group
Page Count
: 352
Release Date: January 11, 2022

*I was provided with an eARC by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!*

CW: depression, teen pregnancy, explicit sexual content, parental abandonment/tension, body insecurity

I have to start off by saying that this was the perfect end of the year/start of the new year read! It’s set around that time, in my beloved Seattle no less, and I just felt like all the fates aligned, especially with this being very reminiscent of my favorite Netflix RomCom Set It Up to bring this story to me. Honestly, it’s like this book was written for me.

The author preempted the story with a note on the depiction of depression in the book and how personal of a topic it was, while it may also be very different from other people’s experiences. I really appreciated having that insight before I dug in, but, from the beginning, I loved the setting (having worked in the TV world as well), the dynamic between the characters (not even just talking about the main pairing) and the themes that were presented. I could see a lot of myself in Ari and was immediately in love with her love interest, Russell. It’s not often that you get to read about a male plus-size love interest and one that is done so well no less.

In general, I found a lot of Weather Girl just laugh out loud hilarious, while simultaneously thinking that even the most over the top moments had a feel of authenticity to them. I enjoyed the great communication and could have even done without the obligatory third Act fight. However, I really have to emphasize that the fight made sense and added another point of realism. I just wanted everything to be happy, which, if you’ve paid attention to the book, is just not feasible or realistic. Sometimes, it takes time and work to get to where you want to be. Sometimes, you have to be vulnerable and take a risk in order to get a reward. And sometimes, it’s okay to bend a little for the right person. It was a lovely message.

Ultimately, I really enjoyed the whole book! I liked the pacing and the progression of the relationships, but also the challenges they had to face. In the end, I might have even wished for one or two more chapters before the epilogue. Still, this was such a satisfying read!

Fazit: 4/5 stars! The perfect way to end this year for me!


Are you planning on reading Weather Girl? Do you think this story might be for you? Let’s talk!

Love, Lists, and Fancy Ships by Sarah Grunder Ruiz (ARC Review)

Publisher: Berkley Publishing Group
Page Count
: 336
Release Date: November 23, 2021

*I was provided with an eARC by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!*

CW: loss of a loved one, parental abandonment, grief

Love, Lists, & Fancy Ships is Sarah Grunder Ruiz’ debut women’s fiction/contemporary romance novel. However, while the cover looks very sweet and fun, I’m very glad I knew going in that grief would be a central aspect of the book. As my reading list tends to show, I gravitate towards books that deal with loss and the handling of grief quite regularly, so I was pleased to see how it was dealt with here. It’s a topic that can easily become overwhelming, but while the sadness was always there as an undercurrent, there were so many beautiful and upbeat moments in the story to balance it out, so it never felt too heavy. I can confidently say that I can imagine everyone who has suffered a loss in their lives, finding Love, Lists, & Fancy Ships deeply moving and relatable.

We start off with Josephine Walker aka Jo at her job on a charter yacht. It’s such a fun setting, but what I enjoyed even more than that were the characters that gradually got added. You could feel the history Jo has with each individual as they felt fleshed out and real. There wasn’t a single person I didn’t like to read about. Nina is the kind of ride-or-die best friend one can only wish for. Alex is the kind of love interest you really want to root for, because he is kind and funny and charming and definitely also hot. He’s one of the few romantic leads where I didn’t have to constantly shake my head in disappointment about the choices he made. However, the romance doesn’t actually always take center stage, as the familial relationships with the nieces, daughters and sisters are just as important. It definitely felt like a well-rounded cast!

Jo makes it her priority to be the fun aunt, to distract everyone from the never ending sadness, which backfires on a few occasions. Still, the bucket list was a fun addition, especially when the gang got creative in how to tick off the last few items before time ran out.

The things I didn’t love so much about the book where all very me-problems. For one, I could not handle the Chris Evans disrespect. While Zac Efron gets celebrated (in an ironic way or not), Chris Evans gets described as old and gross. There’s literally only a six-year-age-difference between the two actors, but okay … guess I’m an old millennial myself at this point. Then there was an airport run, which I’m never a fan of, but most of all, I was bugged by the way Jo’s blogging experience was described. It’s very rare that a personal blog with, how can I put this, infrequent updates gets such a big following within less than a year that she’d get multiple concerned emails for not posting. It honestly didn’t feel very realistic to me, while everything else in the story had an authentic vibe.

Overall, I really enjoyed this journey! I felt close to the characters and shed tears on several occasions, while I also laughed out loud more than once. I was especially excited when I saw that my copy included a teaser chapter for a potential sequel with Jo’s best friend Nina as the narrator, set two years after Love, Lists, & Fancy Ships ends. I’d be so here for it! (And book 3 could be about Britt and RJ … just saying …)

Fazit: 4/5 stars! A really beautiful exploration of grief, without ever getting too heavy.


Have you read Love, Lists, and Fancy Ships? Do you want to? Do you like books that are partially set on boats? I’m kind of digging that, to be honest.

Beasts of Prey by Ayana Gray (ARC Review)

Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Page Count
: 496
Release Date: September 28, 2021

*I was provided with an eARC by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!*

CW: death, verbal/physical abuse, indentured servitude/slavery, kidnapping, drug use, sexism, spiders, snakes

Beasts of Prey is the debut novel and first installment in a magical Pan-African-inspired series by Ayana Gray. From the get go, it is clear that there was a lot of thought put into the magic system and I loved uncovering the different layers to it, despite being quite confused in the beginning. Told from multiple POVs, namely those of Ekon, a boy who wants nothing more than to follow into his father’s and brother’s footsteps as a warrior, Koffi, an indentured beastkeeper at the Night Zoo, who wants to see her family free, and a third person, who I’d like to keep nameless in this review, it was interesting to see these different characters introduced and oppose each other.

It was easy to take a liking to sweet Ekon, who is better with books and has a compulsion for counting in order to quell his anxiety, as well as Koffi, who is bold, impulsive and very caring. However, the third POV was the one that felt out of place to me for the most part. It often seemed contradictory to what we learned from the others, but at the same time, I have to admit that it made sense in the end. Still, I wasn’t entirely sure it was necessary to include and more than once felt taken out of the story because of it.

The set up takes a while, but is entirely necessary to really make the characters come to life and give us the full spectrum of their motivations, however, it makes for a slow start. I much preferred reaching the halfway point and the faster pacing that came with it. Once I, the reader, entered the jungle with the characters, it was just so thrilling. There was danger around every corner, gruesome creatures to haunt your dreams and I really rooted for everyone to make it out alive at the various crossroads they faced.

jungle danger snake

The setting is absolutely fantastic, offering almost a mix of spirituality and magic. The story keeps you on your toes, especially once you think you know where it is going, and even leaves you on a cliffhanger that will have you waiting for the sequel for sure. Maybe, because I liked the characters and their dynamic so much, I would have preferred a singular focus on Ekon and Koffi, but I would completely understand why that won’t necessarily change in a sequel. I’m intrigued either way!

Finally, I’d like to point out that I found the author’s note at the end of the novel very enlightening. She explained some of her choices and I really appreciated getting that insight from her, which truly isn’t always a given and neither should it be, but I always enjoy it a lot.

Fazit: 3.5/5 stars! I would definitely pick up a sequel, although I’d hope for a more consistent pacing.


Do you intend to pick up Beasts of Prey once it is released? Do you enjoy magical jungle settings? Let’s talk!

Dark and Shallow Lies by Ginny Myers Sain (ARC Review)

Dark and Shallow Lies Cover

Publisher: Razorbill
Page Count
: 432
Release Date: September 7, 2021

*I was provided with an eARC by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!*

CW: mention of suicide and self-harm, domestic violence, emotional and physical abuse, graphic murder, death of children, hurricane/natural disaster

I don’t know what it is, but I’ve found myself drawn to darker and darker material as of late and ever since I read the blurb of this supernatural YA thriller, I knew I was going to love sinking into this world. Rich in atmosphere and magic, it still takes a while until you find your footing. While it’s a very interesting setting and concept, the beginning is a bit messy as you don’t completely understand what has been happening. Grey, our main character and narrator, is a decent guide though and introduces us to all the key players one by one … and there really are quite a few.

I think Dark and Shallow Lies did an amazing job in portraying Grey’s confusion and grief due to the disappearance of her best friend and “twin flame” Elora. Not every decision will be rational when your heart is broken and reeling, so I decided to not be too harsh on her for her constantly changing feelings towards people.
Seen as she is the only one who lives away from La Cachette outside of the summer season, it felt natural that there was a bit of distance between her and the events of the past months. However, the story focused a lot on her potential love interests as well as her dependancy and need for certain people and not so much on the other “summer children”, which would have been a bit more interesting for me. They all have different powers and are supposedly inseparable, but we were mostly told about that instead of it being shown. No matter how often they said they loved each other more and in a different way than they could ever love anyone else, they sure didn’t seem as distressed about their dwindling numbers as they should have in my eyes.

The build up of the mystery was great and left you wondering about what happened for quite a while. Sometimes you might feel like you would want a quicker progression in the case, but I was so sucked into the story, I flew through it either way and just loved exploring every new page. Ultimately, everything does make sense! When the puzzle pieces eventually fit together and everything falls into place, you can’t help but think “of course, what else could it have been!?”, which I think is always a satisfying experience. More than anything, this book seems to be a lesson on trusting your gut instinct when you think something isn’t quite right. I still wish that some aspects were explored further and I’m missing one key explanation about a certain character, but I also wasn’t massively disappointed in the end.

Fazit: 3.5/5 stars! I decided to round up because of the atmosphere, although I think it could have dug deeper.


Do you plan on reading Dark and Shallow Lies? Are you into magical YA thrillers? Let’s talk!

Take Me with You When You Go by David Levithan/Jennifer Niven (ARC Review)

Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Page Count
: 336
Release Date: August 31, 2021

*I was provided with an eARC by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!*

CW: parental neglect, parental abandonment, physical abuse, domestic violence

I have always been an ardent fan of David Levithan’s writing, with his books appearing on this blog plenty a time. However, I do believe that he does some of his best writing whenever he embarks on a journey with a fellow author, which had my curiosity piqued for this one. Although I know a few titles that Jennifer Niven has written, I hadn’t read any of her work before this book, but I still wasn’t about to pass up on the chance to see these two create a story together. I’m happy to report that I was not disappointed!

Take Me with You When You Go is entirely told in emails. It’s a style of narration I absolutely adore, but also something that’s not always easy to pull off. The tricky part is to tell a story, without making it seem too constructed. The language has to evoke feelings and reflect a way people would actually write personal emails instead of how you would write dialogue in a book. I think Take Me with You When You Go handled it well for the most part, although I sometimes wasn’t as immersed in the longer messages as I would have liked to be.

It’s easy to get invested in the fate of Bea and Ezra. Their bond is quickly established and you more or less fly through the pages, hoping they make it out alright on the other end. The situation they had to grow up in is never easy to come to terms with and you shouldn’t have to, because there was nothing okay about it. And still, while reading, it never felt like it got too heavy or weighed me down too much, possibly because of the style of writing that was so easy to follow. Also, I really enjoyed all the Avengers references, because yes, please, talk Marvel to me! That’s my language!

While reading, I feel like you might get frustrated with the siblings’ behavior at times, but simultaneously, it all makes so much sense. Bea, especially, makes it hard at first, because her decisions seem selfish, but become more understandable the more you learn about her. The trauma they both endured made them clam up and build walls, no well-being person could simply climb over them. However, it was beautiful to watch them take charge of the situation and accept help, letting people in who were on their side. 

Something I credit the book highly for is that they put resources for people seeking help at the end of the novel (at least my copy). When dealing with such a real life issue, I appreciate the effort of not just discussing it through fiction, but also including ways to aid people who are actually suffering through these bad circumstances.

While I think many readers will believe that they know where Bea and Ezra’s journey will take them, there are plenty of surprises along the way. This book comes without much fuss, but still manages to pack quite the message. I’d love to leave you with a quote (and also little lesson) that stayed with me after reading to end this review:

It’s wonderful, when someone sees you, the real you, but – and this may be the most profound thing I’ve ever thought or said – maybe the most important thing is seeing yourself.

Fazit: 3.5/5 stars! A quiet but impacting book!


Do you plan on reading Take Me with You When You Go? Have you read other books by Levithan and/or Niven? Let’s talk!

In the Wild Light by Jeff Zentner (ARC Review)

Publisher: Crown Books for Young Readers
Page Count
: 432
Release Date: August 10, 2021

*I was provided with an eARC by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!*

CW: loss of a loved one, mention of substance abuse, sexual assault and domestic violence

Every time Jeff Zentner writes a book, he puts his whole heart in it. He manages to create beauty even in the saddest of moments and oh, sad moments there always are! Whatever he writes, it just touches your soul, your entire being and won’t let you go for a long time afterwards. So, it should come as no surprise that I keep seeking out his books despite the emotional punch they pack, because they fill me with such a complex set of emotions.

In the Wild Light introduces you to Cash and Delaney, although the story is told from Cash’s perspective. Neither of them had an easy life and even when good things finally start to happen, it’s hard for them to come to terms with the fact that they deserve this goodness. In an odd way, I found that entirely relatable. I may not have faced their particular struggles, but as I continued reading, I found more and more of my own scars represented in the story. As the cast grew, I started to fall in love with all of them and would be elated to meet any one of them (with one exemption) to welcome them as a friend into my life.

This book is for everyone who has ever lost a loved one. It’s for people who have had to leave others behind in order to grow, while still holding a heart full of love for them. It’s for those who doubt that they fit in, that they deserve the good things life offers them and that there are others looking out for them. It’s for people like me, who have left part of their heart and soul in different places around the globe, tying them to friends and family and places. In the Wild Light is for those always running hungry, only ever sated by words.
This book is a reminder of the ties we share with the family we are born into and the one we chose for ourselves, even those we were separated from. It shows the importance of having people in your life that actually care to help you realize your full potential and celebrate you as the person you are. And most of all, In the Wild Light is an ode to having the courage of seeing the beauty and light even in moments of darkness.

“You are not a creature of grief. You are not a congregation of wounds. You are not the sum of your losses. Your skin is not your scars. Your life is yours, and it can be new and wondrous. Remember that.”

In the end, In the Wild Light might be my most favorite by Jeff Zentner book to date. I cried, I laughed, I felt my heart warm at the lives of these incredible characters. I’m at an utter loss for words to describe just how much this book meant to me and how much I will cherish it moving forward. Even though I could have done without the romantic sub-plot, because I really believe this story didn’t need any romantic undertones, I can only recommend it to anyone who is willing to go on an emotional journey about loss and belonging, family by blood and the found kind alike. 

Fazit: 5/5 stars! I don’t give a 5-star-rating lightly anymore, but with this book the decision felt easy. It was so worth the read!


Have you read any other books by Zentner? Do you plan to? My reviews for The Serpent King and Goodbye Days are still available (just click on the titles).

Like a Love Song by Gabriela Martins (ARC Review)

Publisher: Underlined
Page Count
: 303
Release Date: August 3, 2021

*I was provided with an eARC by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!*

Everything I knew about this book before I started reading it just made me want to dive into it even more. From the fake-dating-trope to the setting among the LA music and film stars – I truly thought Like a Love Song was written for me, because it basically covered everything I love. I’m so very happy to report that it didn’t disappoint!

Natalie, as a narrator, has a fun and easy voice. She effortlessly manages to make herself relatable to the reader, even though she has a couple diva-moments, which the people in her life notice and even shade a little at times. All of that is part of her journey though and what a sweet one that is. Because when you are followed by paparazzi all the time and every moment of your life gets captured for the internet (be it in a professional capacity or by the shoddy phone camera of a fan), it may happen that you lose sight of who you really are. Natalie was vulnerable and anxious, constantly overthinking what the public, but also her friends and family, were thinking of her, and that made her so beautifully human. I really enjoyed watching her find her way back to herself.

Now, enter William. I sometimes wished we had gotten to know his family and his struggles on an even deeper level, but he was so easy to fall in love with regardless. There was a certain dorkiness and cluelessness to him that felt so endearing, but most of all I appreciated his willingness to keep it real despite the circumstances. Even when Natalie sometimes doubted him, I think his sincerity shone through. However, I’d like to add that I will not tolerate any slander of superhero movies, especially not from indie movie snobs.

So much about this story was cute and funny, but it really had a lot of heart as well. I read it in just one day and that’s because it flowed really nicely, but also because it didn’t always go into great depth. Natalie’s feelings were very clear and I loved the glimpses at family and friends, funny text chains and hints at their life off the page, but sometimes I also wanted even more. I’m forever greedy that way.

The one final thing I will say is that the characters didn’t really feel like 17-year-olds to me. They could have just as easily been in their early twenties and I don’t see how that would have changed the story, but then again, I really didn’t mind that they sometimes seemed older in my head. Maybe I even preferred that in some scenes …

Lastly, Like a Love Song will officially release on my birthday and I think that is an especially good omen. I hope that date will put it under a lucky star, because I really think that a lot of people could potentially enjoy this fun story!

Fazit: 4/5 stars! If you like tropey (in the best sense of the word) teen romances, you should check this out!


Do you plan on reading Like a Love Song? What’s one of your favorite romance tropes? Let’s chat!

The Taking of Jake Livingston by Ryan Douglass (ARC Review)

Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Page Count
: 256
Release Date: July 13, 2021

*I was provided with an eARC by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!*

CW: racism, homophobia, bullying, school shooting, graphic violence/death, suicide and suicidal ideation, physical and emotional abuse, mental illness, parental neglect and abandonment, attempted rape/child molestation, drug use, possession

Ever since I saw the cover for this book (shout out to Jessica Jenkins, who designed it, and Corey Brickley, who did the cover art), I knew I had to pick it up. Horror is still a new-to-me genre and I’m slowly easing myself into it, unsure where I truly stand on it, but I have no regrets reading The Taking of Jake Livingston.

While it may seem short, The Taking of Jake Livingston packs quite the punch. From the get go, Jake’s narration style mixed with the diary entries from Sawyer manage to create great tension and suspense. Although Sawyer gave me the creeps, I enjoyed how reasons for his behavior were explained but not excused. I felt like it was really easy to connect to the teen voices, which were casual but also had some really beautiful lines included. I was barely a couple pages in and I wanted to know everything that had happened and was about to happen.
I have to say that you barely get a breather while you read, with heavy topics such as abuse, racism, bullying, etc. being around every other corner. It became quite a lot at some point, but, at the same time, perfectly portrayed Jake’s dire circumstances. He was about to be stripped of everything, even his self, and you really felt that along with him. All of that made the lighter moments, especially those with Fiona and Allister, who were like bright spots in the ever-growing darkness, all the sweeter. I often wished they had been featured even more prominently, just to give Jake someone to lean on, although I understood that wasn’t the main plot.

Despite the heaviness and the gruesome scenes, some of which had me in literal tears, the book does end on a hopeful and lovely note. I don’t know if I could have handled a glum ending, but I was really pleased and even happy at what I got. This was a story about ghosts, control and letting go of things/people that hurt you, but it was also about self-acceptance and even queer Black love. While the romance surely wasn’t the main plot, the author managed to incorporate it perfectly, making it something that eased the heavy parts without ridiculing what was happening.

In the end, I was impressed by how much intensity could fit into such a “short” book. Some parts felt a bit disjointed and rushed, lacking consequences at times, but the discomfort and creepiness of some scenes will continue to haunt me. I’ll try to just think of the nice ending instead …

Fazit: 3.5/5 stars! Gripping and haunting story you will surely fly through!


Do you intend to pick up The Taking of Jake Livingston? Are you interested in YA horror?