Mini-Reviews: We Are Not From Here + The Taking of Jake Livingston

I am still sharing reviews from my reads from Latinx Heritage Month if you can believe it. I read a lot and reviewed almost everything I picked up. I believe I have one full length review left to post for that month. It always feels weird pairing very different books when I do mini-reviews, but this really is a good representation of what my October was like. I read for Latinx Heritage Month during the first half of the month and then transitioned to horror the last two weeks of October. I got through a good amount of horror last month even though I split my attention between that and LHM. Next year I might have to start horror reads earlier because even though I read a good amount, Halloween came and I was still in need of the genre. You should see at least one set of mini-reviews dedicated to horror, hopefully by the end of the month.

Title: We Are Not From Here Author: Jenny Torres Sanchez Series: N/A Pages: 326 Publisher: Philomel Books Release Date: May 19th 2020

TW: death of a parent, abuse, suicide attempt, sexual assault (forced kissing and rape)

"A ripped-from-the-headlines novel of desperation, escape, and survival across the U.S.-Mexico border. Pulga, Chico, and Pequeña have no false illusions about the town they've grown up in and the dangers that surround them. Though their families--both biological and found--create a warm community for them, threats lurk around every corner. And when those threats become all too real, the three teens know they have no choice but to run: for the border, for the hope of freedom, and for their very lives. Crossing from Guatemala through Mexico with their eyes on the U.S. border, they follow the route of La Bestia, a system of trains that promise the hope of freedom--if they are lucky enough to survive the harrowing journey. With nothing but the bags on their backs and the desperation that courses through their very veins, Pulga, Chico, and Pequeña know that there's no turning back, dangerous though the road ahead might be. In this story inspired by real--and current--events, the plight at our southern border is brought to life."

Jenny Torres Sanchez’s We Are Not From Here tracks three migrants’ desperate and heart-shattering journey from Guatemala to the US. Pulga has spent his life trying to be tough because he knows that the world would eat him up and spit him out in a second. His dream of following in his father’s footsteps as a musician is the only thing that has kept him going. Chico lost his mother at a young age and Pulga became his family. His tender-heartedness often gets him into trouble and unlike Pulga, he has never taught himself to shut off the part of his heart that cares too much. Pequeña has been drowning in her own despair for months. Her mother is constantly reminding her that her pregnancy is a blessing, but to Pequena it’s a reminder of all the things she’s kept secret. When the violence from the only place they’ve ever called home threatens to swallow them whole, the three teens have no choice but to run. There is nothing easy about their journey, ever step forward demands more and more from them. After the money, the tears, and the sweat have run out, it slowly begins to take their hope too. The trek is traumatizing to all who must take is on and even for those who survive, it’s impossible to be the same person you were at the beginning. You pay with parts of yourself. Told in dual POVs, We Are Not From Here is beautifully written and brutally honest. One of the single most impactful reads I’ve read in my entire life.

★ ★ ★ ★ ★
(5/5)


Title: The Taking of Jake Livingston Author: Ryan Douglass Series: N/A Pages: 244 Publisher: Putnam Release Date: July 13th 2021

TW: school shooting, suicide, child abuse, attempted rape, depression, bullying, domestic violence

"Get Out meets Danielle Vega in this YA horror where survival is not a guarantee. Jake Livingston is one of the only Black kids at St. Clair Prep, one of the others being his infinitely more popular older brother. It’s hard enough fitting in but to make matters worse and definitely more complicated, Jake can see the dead. In fact he sees the dead around him all the time. Most are harmless. Stuck in their death loops as they relive their deaths over and over again, they don’t interact often with people. But then Jake meets Sawyer. A troubled teen who shot and killed six kids at a local high school last year before taking his own life. Now a powerful, vengeful ghost, he has plans for his afterlife–plans that include Jake. Suddenly, everything Jake knows about ghosts and the rules to life itself go out the window as Sawyer begins haunting him and bodies turn up in his neighborhood. High school soon becomes a survival game–one Jake is not sure he’s going to win"

Ryan Douglass’s The Taking of Jake Livingston has its fair share of unsettling scenes, but falts in its development of certain relationships. Jake has been able to see ghosts for as long as he can remember. Being an outsider comes with the territory of being a medium, but Jake is also gay and not exactly out to his friends or family. He is also one of very few Black students at his private school. When Jake crosses paths with a vengeful ghost, all the things he thought he knew about the dead realm go out the window. Sawyer is able to manipulate objects in the real world and he has his sights set on Jake. Most people see Jake as absent-minded, prone to zone out when the truth is Jake’s mind is always engaged, just not necessarily focused on the world in front of him. Dealing with homophobic and racist teachers and peers, school is more of a nightmare than a refuge. At home, there is a lot of tension between him and his brother as well as unresolved issues with his mother, stemming from the abuse he endured from his father. Jake doesn’t have too many places that make him feel safe and wanted which makes him vulnerable to nefarious influences. One of the most interesting elements of The Taking of Jake Livingston is its dual POV. Not only do we get inside Jake’s head, but inside Sawyer’s. We see Jake trying to balance two sides of his life and then we jump back in time to witness the unraveling of Sawyer, as his journey catapults to a violent end. Both of these characters are vividly drawn; however, I wanted more from the side characters. Jake makes new friends and gains a potential love interest in a new student, but neither Fiona nor Allister really felt developed enough. It was so important to Jake’s arc to find his own people, but we spend very little time with them and when we did, their relationships felt accelerated. Still, if you’re looking for a quick horror read that delves into what pushes individuals to violence, The Taking of Jake Livingston might be the book for you.

★ ★ ★
(3/5)

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