Jacob's Ladder (novel)
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Candlewick Press (US)|
Orchard Books (UK)
The story begins as the protagonist, Jacob awakes in a field with no memory of who he is. His only clue is his name, and the fact that his clothes are covered with brown stains. From here Jacob is led by a man called Virgil to a place called Locus. Locus initially resembles a school because of the number of children, but the children do not attend classes, and instead pick stones in the 'picking fields'. Here Jacob meets a girl named Aysha, and a boy called Toby, both of whom become his friends. After a series of visions, Jacob comes to the realisation that he has died, and Locus is the 'next world' to which he has been sent.
Together Toby, Aysha and Jacob set out from Locus, taking a small amount of provisions with them. They walk for a day or so, eating some of their food before waking up to find that the rest had turned into ash. They came across a woman (Nemain) washing brown-stained clothes in a river they had drunk from. After lodging with the woman for a day, they fled when the woman complained about the stained clothes, saying: "How am I supposed to get all the blood off these clothes?". While they fled, they met a group of nomadic people, called the Dedanim. The Dedanim, who have strong biblical connotations (See: Dedan) invited Jacob and co. to stay with them. However, after a few nights, Jacob feels that he is losing sight of his goal, and leaves, followed by Aysha and Toby. At this moment they wake up to find that the Dedanim had disappeared and they were lying where they had been before. They travelled on and were split up after being chased by wild dogs. Jacob is cut off from the group, and meets an elderly man named Moloch (Another religious name, see: Moloch), who lives in a cave. Jacob slowly figures out that Moloch is a cannibal, but finds out too late, for he was promptly trapped in Moloch's cave.
As Moloch starts a fire to smoke Jacob to death, Jacob finds a small passageway at the back of the cave. He proceeds to crawl his way towards the end of the tunnel, which ended in a very high ladder. The ladder (which the novel is presumably named after) is Brian Keaney's representation of the Biblical Jacob's Ladder. After Jacob struggles to the top of the ladder (momentarily contemplating giving up), and comes across a white palace in the desert. He is briefly united with Aysha and Toby before they individually meet the ruler of Locus. The 'ruler' is a being bearing the face of an old man and a beautiful woman. It loosely resembles Roman myth Janus in the way it guards a gate back to the 'normal' world. Its dual-personality (pessimistic and optimistic) also echo Janus's myth.
Jacob's Ladder won the Havering 'Best of the Best Award' for teenage fiction, and was shortlisted for South Lanarkshire book award, Calderdale Children's Book Award and the Warwickshire children's book awards.