Disclaimer: I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Thank you to Ryan Douglass, Netgalley, and Putnam for this free copy. All quotes in this review are taken from the Advanced Reader Copy and may change in final publication.
First, I am definitely not a horror type of person – I am a huge scaredy-cat – but I knew I had to read this one. I’m so glad that I did because this was such an amazing story filled with racial tension, the consequences of abuse, and the kind of ghost encounters that scream creepy.
Douglass made it a point to note that Jake was one of the only Black kids at his fancy prep school, and for good reason. While we are seeing Jake get through his school day – despite watching constant death echoes from the people that died on campus – we see just how racist and hateful the faculty, staff, and even students can be. We have a terrible English teacher who sometimes can’t even tell the difference between Jake and his brother and truly believes that Jake is too stupid to know how to read. How completely off base could this woman be? We have some douchebag jock who is so obsessed with bullying Jake to the point that it’s pretty stalkerish… it actually reminded me of how Larry was so ruthless in teasing Xander because he couldn’t admit out loud that he was gay.
**Do you see the kind of realization and relief on Larry’s face after he says he’s gay? Just look at that face oh my gosh.
I’m not saying that happened in this book, but that’s exactly how I felt about it. I mean, jock dude was making fun of Jake’s peen. I’m just saying, dude was obsessed with Jake for a reason and it was just super weird.
So not only is Jake dealing with jerk teachers and jerk bullies and jerk classmates, he’s seeing death echoes everywhere he goes. It’s to the point that he’s so focused on what he’s seeing that he can’t seem to focus on what’s going on right in front of him. People can be talking to him and it’s like he is zoned out. It gets in the way of his potential friendships and his performance in school because he’s not able to shut the dead world out. It’s not his fault, and people just assume that he’s weird or whatever, but they just don’t know.
It starts to get worse when instead of seeing death echoes, he somehow has an evil spirit haunting him, showing when he kills people and terrorizing him in general. This ghost ends up being a student that committed a mass shooting at his school and killed himself a while ago: Sawyer, and Sawyer’s goal is to use Jake’s body to continue his killing spree.
One of the things that I kept focusing on in this novel was how Jake and Sawyer sort of mirrored one another. To me, Sawyer is what Jake would have been like if he was pushed too far. While Jake didn’t go through everything that Sawyer did – and trust me, he went through a lot of messed up things that I honestly wasn’t surprised at what he did – the teasing by his peers and the underestimation by his teachers really felt similar. The sad thing is, Sawyer even tried to reach out for help somehow, but he just wasn’t getting it in the way he needed to. Of course, that doesn’t take away from his actions, and his thoughts on wanting to torture and kill things, but I understand it. It’s kind of like in Criminal Minds, where they have to go into the unsub’s head to understand why he did the things he did, and what he would do next.
I don’t know if it was Sawyer’s influence, but there were times where Jake’s rage felt like it was going to overflow… and things would get violent real fast. That’s really why I felt like their lives were almost the same, and hoped that Jake wouldn’t be pushed too far over the edge and do something similar. Or worse.
I would love to discuss this book with others who read it, because I feel like the more I get into it, the more spoilers I would include. I’m hoping that this didn’t have spoilers? This was a horror novel that I rather enjoyed, and I am happy to say that I am a fan of Douglass’ work.