Title: Vintage: A Ghost Story
Author: Steve Berman
Publisher: Lethe Press
Length: 204 Pages
Category: Paranormal, Ghosts/Spirits, Teen Fiction
At a Glance: I’ve made my way through more than a few ghost stories over the years. As they go, this may just be one of the best I’ve ever had the pleasure to read.
Reviewed By: Lisa
Blurb: In a small New Jersey town, a lonely teen walking along a highway one autumn evening meets the boy of his dreams, a boy who happens to have died decades ago and haunts the road. Awkward crushes, both bitter and sweet, lead him to face youthful dreams and childish fears. With a cast of offbeat friends, antiques, and Ouija boards, Vintage offers readers a memorable blend of dark humor, chills and love.
Review: Hand to heart, I finished this novel in the middle of the night, snuggled under the covers during a thunderstorm, and it was perfection. I can’t think of a better way to read this book than with all the lights off and your imagination in full fright mode. If you love a good old fashioned, chill you to the bone ghost story, Steve Berman delivers one of the best I’ve read in a long, long time in Vintage: A Ghost Story. In fact, it may just have rocketed up to the top of my all-time faves; it’s definitely a book I’ll be reading again. And maybe again after that.
It wasn’t until I’d finished the book, and couldn’t stop thinking about it, that I realized I have no idea what the narrator’s name is (apart from an offhanded mention of his surname), and I can’t begin to describe how much that impresses me. I came to love this character so much despite this missing critical part of his persona; that’s how absorbed I was in the story he’s telling. In his first-person narration, his I/me becomes personal and intimate to each reader, and the story more engrossing because of it.
We do know his best friend is a girl named Trace. We know that she has two brothers named Mike: one presumed dead after disappearing more than fifteen years ago. The other, a quiet fifteen-year-old who’s been dubbed Second Mike…the replacement for First Mike, if you will. And this made me not only feel a deep amount of empathy for Second Mike, but it also made me realize that having a name maybe isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, especially when the ownership of that name comes with some significant baggage.
The benefit of the first-person narrative is that we learn so much about our seventeen-year-old narrator as he’s relating this story: about his family, why he dropped out of high school, why he lives with his Aunt Jan, why he’s terrified she’ll find out he’s gay, and that he and Trace make it a practice to peruse the obituaries and attend strangers’ funerals. Enough details that my affection for him grew with each new chapter, and when it’s all laid out on the table, it becomes evident that his name would have been the absolute least interesting or revealing thing about him.
Because he also sees dead people. Probably for a lot longer than he’s even realized.
Me, the little goth boy being stalked by a dead jock.
Route 47 is haunted. At least that’s what the local legends say, though no one’s ever proved there’s a ghost wandering along a dark and lonely stretch of New Jersey highway. That is, until our narrator happens upon a guy who looks like he stepped out of a vintage clothing shop ca. the 1950s: beautiful, athletic, and mysterious. It’s not until the mystery boy vanishes into thin air right before Goth Boy’s eyes that it appears this isn’t just some random ghost story after all. His name is Josh, this ghost—that’s what’s sewn on his letterman’s sweater—and this encounter eventually causes all sorts of issues for our resident medium when Josh becomes obsessed with and fixated on the only boy who can see and speak to him.
“I’m your friend. You don’t need anyone else.”
But the greater problem might be that our inadvertent medium has unwittingly helped Josh understand that he’s dead. And that could very well be deadly for this young narrator.
As the mystery surrounding Joshua Wyle’s death begins to unfold—the events just beforehand and what precipitated his leaving the party he’d been to—we’re led through a macabre and sinister web of ghostly visitations that would’ve shaken a lesser goth kid to his core. And some of them do, let me tell you. Those scenes shook me because they are so well written. But our narrator’s courage, or perhaps his fascination with death and the supernatural, kept him and his friends dabbling in the occult and searching for clues to what happened to Joshua that night. That search leads our narrator to some unexpected revelations, a whole lot of danger. And, it even leads him to his first love.
There are some light and so sweet moments in this novel, but make no mistake, there is a dark side too, and that darkness may not be palatable to some readers. Goth Boy ran away from home for a reason. He can communicate with the dead for a reason. Some of the ways those people died are heartbreaking and ugly. And Josh’s visitations…they become more disturbing and threatening. There’s a cemetery scene that’s so, so excellent and terrifying; Berman wrote the hell out of that scene in particular, and it might just be my favorite in the book—which is saying something because there’s so much I loved about this novel. But, there are memories that come to life in the telling of this tale, some that left me horrified because they are powerful, so be aware that this is Gothic Horror and not Teen Romance Lite with a side of Paranormal ghost story.
Steve Berman’s writing is evocative, vivid and detailed, much to my horror loving delight, and his young narrator is sympathetic and engaging, and all the secondary characters—ghosts included—became memorable for the role they each played in the telling of this tale. This is great stuff for fans of all things spooktastic!
You can buy Vintage: A Ghost Story here: