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Content warning: Gore, school shooting, revenge porn, attempted rape, bullying, homophobia, abuse by parents
Jake Livingston is one of the only Black student at St. Claire’s Prep. The ghosts reliving their deaths and ghouls following him don’t make high school any easier. When a mass shooter from the town’s recent past decides to pick Jake as his next target, it’s a race against escalating violence as Jake comes into his powers as a medium to banish the spirit once and for all.
An atmospherically horrifying new voice in horror that had me reading this book through splayed fingers from start to finish, while clinging onto the hope for a happy-for-now ending for Jake.
Author Ryan Douglass will be featured on the blog on release day, July 13.
The representation of life at a prep school in this novel is superb. The kids can be colossal jerks and the teachers don’t seem to care, except when the bullying reaches a breaking point. This aspect is scary enough as is. Add in the hauntings and poor Jake can’t seem to get a break. The fact that there are other ghosts and ghouls which could ruin his day in addition to Sawyer, a school shooter back from the dead as a ghost with very real abilities in the physical world, and you have scares you can’t look away from.
Jake is my new favorite horror protagonist. He’s smart as far as his understanding of the ghost world goes, but he doesn’t hesitate to reach out for help. Fiona and Allister are such great side characters and clearly have their own inner lives beyond just Jake and his troubles. The blooming romance between Jake and Allister is equal parts cute and bittersweet as Jake is all too aware of how his school treats the marginalized and other reminds that society around him are not kind to people like them. It’s introspective and effective, especially given the context of the supernatural horror plot.
Without going too much into spoilers, one of the scariest things in this novel is the antagonism between Sawyer and Jake and their subtle parallels. They’re both gay, their families are a mess, and things generally aren’t easy for either of them. The fact that Douglass does not shy away from the idea that Sawyer did not need to shoot up his school to resolve his rage adds another layer to this already compelling ghost story.