This review was first published in Resource Links Magazine, Canada’s national journal devoted to the review and evaluation of Canadian English and French resources for children and young adults. It appears in volume 15.2.
Ghost Ride is a gripping mixture of realism and the paranormal. Sam McLean’s experiences when he moves to the archaic rural “Sleepy Hollow” of his father’s youth blends the angst of teens’ need for social acceptance with inexplicable experiences connected with his father’s increasingly bizarre behaviour. Needing to be accepted in his new town and school—where he was loath to move in the first place—Sam ingratiates himself with two rebel pranksters, self-dubbed “Maniac” and “J-Man.” His inclusion in a prank has seemingly drastic results, and he must choose to face the consequences of his decisions.
What renders this oft-told plot more powerful in Cohen’s novel is the incorporation of three paranormal elements in the text: ghosts, visions, and witches. The obvious, but not heavy-handed, association with Washington Irving’s “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” prepare the reader for the psychic connection between Sam and his father’s past; the clues we receive are sufficiently subtle, the incidents sufficiently believable, to help us suspend our disbelief. Sam’s experiencing of his father’s past helps him—not to avoid the mistakes his father made, but to take responsibility for his actions in a way his father had not done as a teen. The seriousness of both characters’ experiences finally builds a bond between father and son, shared crisis leading to a shared understanding.