Critique of systemic violence towards marginalized teens

“Yellowjackets” meets “The Taking of Jake Livingston” in acclaimed author’s first foray into dark, paranormal horror

NEW YORK CITY, New York – Lambda Literary Award Finalist and acclaimed author, Kosoko Jackson, explodes onto the horror scene with “The Forest Demands Its Due” (Quill Tree Books, October 3rd, 2023), a chilling examination of how society perpetuates violence against marginalized teens. Jackson is a literary powerhouse whose holistic representation of Black, queer youth spans across genres. Sink into this haunting, heart-pounding dark academia that critiques racism in education and combats the “bury your gays” trope. “The Forest Demands Its Due” aims to encourage young people to push back against the manipulative world of the elite and to step into their power. 

Seventeen-year-old Douglas Jones wants nothing to do with Regent Academy’s king-making or nefarious history; he’s just trying to survive. Until a student is murdered and the next day no one remembers he ever existed, except for Douglas and the groundskeeper’s son, Everett Everley. In his determination to uncover the truth, Douglas awakens a horror hidden within the forest surrounding Regent, unearthing secrets that have been buried for centuries. A vengeful creature wants blood as payment for a debt more than 300 years in the making—or it will swallow all of Winslow in darkness. For the first time in his life, Douglas might have a chance to grasp the one thing he’s always felt was missing: power. 

But if he’s not careful, he will find out that power has a tendency to corrupt absolutely everything.

“The Forest Demands Its Due”

Kosoko Jackson | October 3rd, 2023 | Quill Tree Books, HarperCollins

Fantasy Horror

Print | 9790063260794 | $19.99

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KOSOKO JACKSON: Kosoko Jackson is a digital media specialist, focusing on digital storytelling, and a Masters of Fine Arts professor at Seton Hill University. Occasionally, his personal essays and short stories have been featured on Medium, Thought Catalog, The Advocate, and some literary magazines. When not writing novels that champion holistic representation of Black queer men across genres, he can be found obsessing over movies, drinking his (umpteenth) London Fog, or spending far too much time on Twitter. He is a Lambda Literary Finalist,  and an avid Taylor Swift fan. THE FOREST DEMANDS ITS DUE is his 3rd young adult novel, but his first foray into horror. Find out more about Kosoko Jakcson on his website. 

Follow Kosoko Jackson on social media: 

Twitter: @kosokojackson | Instagram: @kosokojackson

In an interview, Kosoko Jackson can discuss:

  • How systemic racism in education informed the plot for of the book 
  • The “bury your gays” trope in popular media and why he wanted to push against this problematic, limiting theme in entertainment 
  • The parallels that exist between the monstrous forest and today’s society 
  • How gothic fairy tales, Disney movies, and The Brothers Grimm inspired the book 
  • What he hopes this book will accomplish and inspire especially in the midst of rising legislative hatred towards LGBTQ+ people 
  • Why he decided to delve into the horror genre 

Advanced praise for “The Forest Demands Its Due”

“THE FOREST DEMANDS ITS DUE is an atmospheric horror mystery about refusing to be prey to the powerful monsters that are determined to swallow you whole. Kosoko Jackson deftly explores what it means to truly end cycles of suffering, and how the cruelest monsters are often not monsters at all.” 

Aiden Thomas, New York Times bestselling author of “Cemetery Boys” and “The Sunbearer Trials” 

“Enter at your own risk, for these woods are ravenous. The Forest Demands Its Due is Kosoko Jackson doing what he does best: delivering a compelling, raw, and delightfully horrific tale that howls with all the haunted depths of a truly cursed forest.”

 –Ryan La Sala, bestselling author of “The Honeys”

“A non-stop roller coaster of suspense and intrigue, Jackson has crafted a tale rife with terrifying thrills, a perfectly ominous setting, and a healthy dose of heart.” 

Kalynn Bayron, New York Times bestselling author of “Cinderella is Dead”

“Strange magic, mad creatures and cruel curses abound in this eerie tale of becoming. This book calls to you sure as the dark forest calls to Douglas — and if you know what’s good for you, you’ll answer that call.”

 –Chuck Wendig, New York Times bestselling author of “Aftermath”

“A gruesome modern fairytale like THE FOREST DEMANDS ITS DUE doesn’t come along often—this bloody, romantic tale gets its claws in you right from the start. I loved it.” –Hannah Whitten, New York Times bestselling author of “For The Wolf”

“Magic, mystery and murder combine in Jackson’s dark academia thriller that will have you jumping at shadows and eager to stay out of the woods. Sharp, visceral, and all together stunning, The Forest Demands Its Due will haunt you long after the last page.” 

–Sasha Peyton Smith, New York Times bestselling author of “Witch Haven”

“Kosoko Jackson’s compellingly complex dark academia captures the magic that is taking life into one’s own hands, of who gets seen as a monster and who is afforded humanity—a riveting exploration of academic privilege that flips the “chosen one” script on its head. It’s impossible not to fall in love with Douglas. This is THE dark academia. Don’t you dare miss it.”

 –Victoria Lee, bestselling author of “A Lesson In Vengeance”

“THE FOREST DEMANDS ITS DUE is a delightful blend of fables and curses. Readers that love dark academia or haunted forests will revel in the atmospheric prose and determined protagonist. Kosoko Jackson pulls no punches, crafting a book that captivates and thrills”

 –Emily Lloyd-Jones

Praise for “I’m So Not Over You”

“Jackson jumps from an outstanding YA debut with Yesterday Is History to deliver a delightfully outrageous romantic comedy full of pop culture references, strong families, and a ride-or-die BFF.” —Library Journal, Starred Review

“This nuanced romance marks Jackson as a writer to watch in the adult sphere.” —Publishers Weekly

“A snappy, sizzling, downright delightful book from Jackson, a welcome and fresh new voice in rom-coms.” Julia Whelan, author of My Oxford Year

An Interview with Kosoko Jackson

Why was it important to set this book in the middle of a prestigious academic institution? How does “The Forest Demand Its Due” comment on systemic racism in education? 

As someone who grew up in a predominantly white institution (PWI), I remember how hard it was to navigate this space while holding onto my Blackness and not feeling like a part of me had to be sacrificed to survive. Georgetown University, and its history of slaves used to build its historic institution, is an example (and was a huge inspiration for this novel). The Forest Demands Its Due is a story that discusses how these spaces chip away at the parts that make anyone unique, and how these “king and queen” maker institutions demand more from you than most are willing to pay, in order to succeed. I wanted to talk about that through a lens of magic, horror and fantasy to keep readers on the edge of their seat, but also teach them a small bit about how the world functions for marginalized people.

How does “The Forest Demand Its Due” push back against the “bury your gays” trope in popular media? Why was it so important to you to combat this trope?  

So often queer characters die to further the plot of books. When I decided to write horror, I remembered something Jordan Peele said, “Black characters won’t die in my movies”, and it made me think how those are the stories I want to write. Queer characters can be more than plot devices, and if they do die, their deaths should mean something, not just motivate a straight character to act. It was important for me to have queer characters that could be seen as heroes, villains, complex, and every adjective possible; not just plot elements. 

Can you describe the parallels between the forest and our society today? What comparisons do you want readers to think critically about while reading this novel?

Without giving too much away, The Forest in my novel is a living, adaptable forest, with things called Emissaries—animal, human, floral hybrids that serve a master—and Perversions—a perverted version of an Emissary that has given into darkness, patrolling the grounds. The forest also consumes the memories of someone’s existence if they die within the fictional town of Winsow, VT. I wanted to discuss how history swallows its victims whole, unless there is someone–or someones–to advocate for them and usually those people are wealthy, successful or powerful people who have the ability to manipulate the story. Very similar to those who are immune to the effects of The Forest.

Can you talk about the inspiration of other media that inspired the book? (Disney movies, Brothers Grimm, gothic fairy tales, etc.) 

I’m a huge fan of fairy tales. Not to spoil anything in the book, but a big part of this is the gothic tale you learn about in the story, who gets to write history, and how history is twisted to suit the writers. I’m also a big fan of historical documents, and how history and time twists these documents, depending on your knowledge base and culture, to tell a different tale. Think about quotes–such as blood is thicker than water–which mean completely different things if you know the full expression. Or let them eat cake, something Antoinette never said. That’s a big theme in this novel. 

What do you hope this book will accomplish and inspire especially in the midst of rising legislative hatred towards LGBTQ+ people?

Queer books are here to stay, let me be clear. There is no such thing as clean or dirty YA books. Books are books, they inherently are not morally bad or good. But I do hope this novel expands some readers’ knowledge on what books with queer characters can have, and how integral queerness is, not only to history, but to storytelling. This book wouldn’t be the same book if written straight; but that doesn’t mean it’s a book you shouldn’t read. In fact, I’d argue if it’s your first queer novel, it’s a perfect introduction into such a fabulous group of books.

You are widely known for your successful romance novels, what inspired you to dive into paranormal horror? 

I’ve also loved horror, and something I’ve wanted to explore for years. Hereditary, The Exorcist, Midsommar, Panic Room…just to name a few are some of my favorite horror movies. I think horror is such a reflection of society and a representation of social justice in an accessible way. Horror is all about taking a concept people fear, and making it into a big bad worth conquering. Queer kids, and Black kids, deserve the same too, which, at its core, is what the big bads in this novel are; threats against queerness and Blackness. 

What is next for you as a writer? 

I have my next YA novel coming out in 2024! I can’t give away much, but it’s about exorcisms, who gets exercised and the power of darkness. 

Praise for “Yesterday is History”

A Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection! —Junior Library Guild

 ⭐ “A stellar novel that today’s teens needed yesterday.” —Booklist, STARRED Review

“In a novel with exciting representation of a gay Black teen where identity isn’t the issue, readers will appreciate the realistic nuance of Andre’s frankness when talking about the White privilege Blake and his family exhibit that makes them unable to see how different and potentially dangerous time traveling is for a 17-year-old Black boy… A skillful and engrossing time-travel adventure.” —Kirkus Reviews

Praise for “A Dash of Salt and Pepper”

“Jackson’s sexy grumpy/sunshine romantic comedy will grab readers from the first page. Highly recommended for all collections.”—Library Journal

“Sparks fly in and out of the kitchen in this age-gap contemporary romance.”—Kirkus Reviews

A wonderful small-town romance with a vibrant voice. You’ll love spending time with Xavier and Logan in Harper’s Cove.”Jackie Lau, author of Donut Fall in Love

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