Summary: Starting over in Sleepy Hollow, the smalltown his father grew up in, Sam is bitter about his parents moving his family from his friends in Toronto. His mother tries to make him befriend Walter, the geeky neighbour boy, but a witnessed prank gets Sam into the cool crowd at school. In his quest to fit in with his new friends, Sam takes part in a prank with disastrous results making him question everything. Sam isn’t the only one having trouble though, his father has been sick ever since the move. In a town rumoured to have been founded by witches, both father and son are being haunted by the past, and if the truth doesn’t come out history is doomed to be repeated.
Number of Pages: 183
Age Range: 13-15
Review: Packing powerful themes into a short but haunting book, Ghost Ride by Marina Cohen is a quick read with depth.
I figured out pretty quickly that the actions of Sam and his father were connected, and I loved it. Cohen explores the impact of the sins of the father being revisited on the son. If Sam’s father had been honest with Sam from the start instead of hiding his shameful secret, I wonder if Sam would have made the same choices or had such low self-esteem in the first place. It’s a well-developed idea, even to the point where Sam’s father seems to be in the same position as his son, trying to grow up and make better choices for his life. The move back to the town where he grew up to live in a mansion was a way for Sam’s father to prove himself, and convince himself that he had come up in the world.
As for Sam, I felt for him. Haunted unknowingly by his father’s mistakes and by the friendless period in his life, it was easy to see why he tries so hard to fit in. The tension between father and son when Sam’s father realised Sam was hanging out with the same crowd as he did was realistic and believable.
I liked how Cohen resolved Ghost Ride, and I found the Homegirl twist to be amusing. With the paranormal aspect, it’s definitely a good choice for reluctant early to mid teen readers.
“‘Walter’s starting the ninth grade,’ Maeve said. ‘The real-estate agent mentioned something about your son being around the same age.’
Sam’s stomach lurched. It was suddenly clear where this was headed. It was a setup. They had let a Trojan horse into their house. Sam cleared his throat to get his mother’s attention, but it was too late.” – from Ghost Ride by Marina Cohen, page 24
“Sam shook his head. He had to get used to smalltown life. He’d had no idea what it was like to live in a place where everybody knew one another, where the sins of the father were passed down to the son.” – from Ghost Ride by Marina Cohen, page 63
“Sam didn’t know what he was saying anymore. He was out of his mind. His emotions had gone haywire. Fear, panic, anger, anguish – they were writing like snakes in his gut, twisting and turning until they knotted into a giant ball of confusion. He should be talking to Mike. He should be telling him everything. But he couldn’t. He couldn’t face himself. Instead, he threw himself onto his bed, closed his eyes, and pretended to sleep.” – Sam from Ghost Ride by Marina Cohen, page 115
“The vault inside his brain, the one he’d kept locked for what seemed like forever, snapped open, and a river of unwanted memories gushed forth, nearly drowning him.
There was Sam picked last for every game. There was Sam standing alone in the playground, kids fleeing from him as if he had some kind of disease. Kids laughing at him. Teasing him. Calling him names. Looking at him with disgust in his eyes that said: ‘You worthless piece of trash. You don’t deserve to get treated any better.’ And the worst part of all, the saddest, most pathetic part, was that he, Sam, agreed with them. He had let them do it because deep down he believed they were right.” – Sam from Ghost Ride by Marina Cohen, page 157