REVIEW: The Saturday Night Ghost Club

I have not read any Halloween brand spooky books this month and I’m so disappointed in myself for that. But better late than never, I picked up The Saturday Night Ghost Club by Craig Davidson looking for some scares. Although I didn’t get what I was expecting at all, this is still quite a ride of a story.

The novel follows Jake, now an adult and a neurosurgeon, as he reminisces about the summer spent ghost hunting with his Uncle Calvin. His eccentric uncle takes Jake, his friend Billy, and Cal’s best friend, Lex, on several tours of the Niagara region looking for the sad, the spooky, and the haunted. But, as always, things aren’t always as they seem.

Normally I am not a fan of books that heavily mention exact locations of things. I find it takes my out of the story a lot of the time (especially in American novels) but in Canadian stories it comes across as “overly Canadian” and kind of lame. However, I am so familiar with the tourist trap strips of Niagara Falls and the neighbouring areas, that I felt comforted and at home with all the street names and locations. It made it feel like home and added to the tone and the context of the story, especially since I’ve been twelve and bored and hot and stuck in Niagara Falls on more than one summer camp trip.

Here’s where this review might get a little spoilery so stop here if I’ve already got you wanting to read the book.

Although the gang of misfits do visit one or two truly haunted locations, what they are really doing is seeing how a brain injury has effected a man who doesn’t even remember getting hurt in the first place. A la 50 First Dates, the townspeople who know what happened to Calvin pretend it never did for his own well-being and that’s what Jake is bearing witness to on that fateful summer when he was twelve.

I went into this book really hoping for ghosts and demons to fill the need of something scary in October, but what I got was a story about how people care for each other and I almost thing that’s the better way for this book to have gone. I wouldn’t necessarily agree with the Strangers Things comparison being marketed in regards to Davidson’s novel, but I would completely agree with the strong Stand By Me vibes that it gives off.

A wonderful story with one of the best covers I’ve seen this year.

Happy Halloween, everyone.

REVIEW: The Serpent King

22752127If Jeff Zentner never writes another book I will be forever heartbroken.

Considering this is Zentner’s first novel, I am utterly floored. The last time I read a YA novel this intensely emotional was when I read Perks of Being a Wallflower. I’m fairly certain I cried for the entire time I was reading this book from pages 114 onwards.

Dill is so passionate and so lost but never stops doing what he truly believes to be the right thing to do. His faith is unwavering, and – speaking as someone who doesn’t have a religious bone in their body – it’s something truly beautiful. Travis is a darling, so sweet and sure of himself, even when people are tearing him down for his escapist love of fantasy. And Lydia? Bloody hell, where do I even start? She’s an inspiration of what it means to find what you love and take it by the throat. She’s proud and confident, and so real that I honestly have no idea how to truly talk about her.

The story is heavy – far heavier than I’ve typically seen in YA – and heartwrenching. It’s a devastating novel that made me laugh just as much as it made me sob.

If you read one YA book this year. Make it this one. Please.

Author: Jeff Zentner
Published: March 8th 2016
Pages: 384
Publisher: Crown Books
ISBN: 9780553524024

Synopsis: Dill has had to wrestle with vipers his whole life – at home, as the only son of a Pentecostal minister who urges him to handle poisonous rattlesnakes, and at school, where he faces down bullies who target him for his father’s extremely public fall from grace. The only antidote to all this venom is his friendship with fellow outcasts Travis and Lydia. But as they are starting their senior year, Dill feels the coils of his future tightening around him.