________________ CM . . . . Volume XVI Number 6 . . . . October 9, 2009


Ghost Ride.

Marina Cohen.
Toronto, ON: Dundurn, 2009.
172 pp., pbk., $12.99.
ISBN 978-1-55488-438-4.

Grades 6-8 / Ages 11-13.

Review by Kay Weisman.

** /4

Reviewed from Advance Reader's Copy.


The music stopped. The wind was on Sam's face. He was flying —— no, gliding. All sense of panic and desperation had evaporated. He was soaring like an eagle, awaiting the impact that never came.

One of his hands gripped the roof of the car and the other his cellphone, but wait, something had changed. Both hands were now wrapped around something completely different. What was it? Bars?


Sam's eyes snapped open. He couldn't believe what he was seeing. He was dreaming…dreaming or… dead.

Sam was no longer in a car. He was on a bike. An old bike. The one in the photo he'd taken—the Kronan. He wasn't wearing a toque and his arms looked different. Felt different. His clothes looked different too. He was coasting downhill in the middle of the road, all alone, heading toward a pair of headlights that were almost on top of him. Behind him he heard a sound. An engine. And there were lights too. Getting brighter. Another vehicle was approaching from behind. He was trapped.

For a second time, he was sure he was going to die; only this time it didn't seem to matter.


Fourteen-year-old Sam McLean is angry that his parents have decided to move from the city to an old mansion on the outskirts of Ringwood, a small town that Sam refers to as "the butt-of-beyond." From the outset, the move seems like a bad decision: the house is creepy, the neighbors are peculiar, Dad develops a mysterious flu that he can't shake, and Sam begins having nightmares about an old, red bike crashing into a moving vehicle. To compensate for his unhappiness, Sam sets his sights on being accepted by the popular crowd—especially Cody Barnes, whose claim to fame is performing dangerous stunts and posting them to his blog. During an initiation of sorts, Cody convinces Sam to accompany him and his friend Javon on a midnight ghost ride, one in which the boys dance on the hood of their moving car with predictably disastrous results.

     Cohen's melding of contemporary reality and ghostly fantasy is less successful than her earlier titles Shadow of the Moon and Trick of the Light. Sam and his acquaintances ring true as sarcastic, image-conscious youth who know what's right but often make the wrong choice. Cohen deftly weaves parts of Washington Irving's The Legend of Sleepy Hollow into a subplot that features contemporary characters and events paralleling those of Irving's story. Less successful is the portrayal of Sam's father who, as a boy, accidentally caused a deadly accident on the red Kronan bike that Sam sees in his nightmares. Cohen asks readers to accept that Dad got over his guilt, led an exemplary life, and then decided to purchase a house in the same town as the accident simply because he got a great price. Near the end of the story Dad cracks—becoming deranged and threatening Sam because he thinks his son knows his secret—very much out of character for a character repeatedly described as "Mr. Perfect." For readers willing to overlook this flaw, Cohen has created a genuinely creepy story that will hold readers' attention.

Recommended with reservations.

Kay Weisman is a Master of Arts in Children's Literature candidate at the University of British Columbia.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
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