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Vintage: A Ghost Story by Steve Berman
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Vintage: A Ghost Story (2007)

by Steve Berman

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2111083,901 (3.98)15
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Vintage’s protagonist is an unnamed mostly closeted gay teen, who I will call MC (short for “Main Character”) from here on out. MC ran away from home after his parents reacted badly to learning that he was gay, so now he lives with his aunt, who he’s afraid might do the same thing. The only people who know his secret are his new friend Trace and several other friends she introduced him to.

His life here is better than it had been back with his parents. He has friends, he’s convinced his aunt to let him drop out of school and get his GED and work instead, and he likes his job at the vintage clothing shop. Still, a part of him is always afraid that the wrong person will find out he’s gay and ruin everything and, at the same time, he desperately wants a boyfriend. When he sees a cute boy in vintage clothes walking alone, he takes a risk and talks to him. And even though he’s a weird goth kid talking to a guy dressed like a jock, it doesn’t go badly! Unfortunately for MC, Josh, the cute boy, is a ghost.

At first, MC and Trace are delighted at the prospect of meeting a real ghost. However, things soon take a turn for the worse. Josh follows MC home. Although MC is excited that a boy is finally interested in him, Josh’s touch could literally suck the life out of him. Josh’s raging jealousy is another problem. If MC and Trace can’t figure out how to put Josh to rest, MC and anyone he cares out could end up dead.

The first half of this book wasn’t my cup of tea at all. Nearly every character was messed up in some way, and it seemed like a potentially murderous ghost was the least of their problems. Liz's parents were mostly absent. Trace's mother was in an institution, her older brother, Mike, was either dead or a runaway, and her mother had her younger brother as a replacement for her older brother, even going so far as to name him after him. MC had tried to commit suicide in the past but instead had just woken up in a puddle of his own vomit.

MC’s friends’ idea of fun was getting together and drinking something called Jim Joneses, a mixture of different flavors of Kool-Aid, vodka, and, in one special glass, a random crushed up pill from the hostess’s medicine cabinet. At the particular gathering featured in the book, they then tried out a Ouija board - at the time, only Trace and MC knew it would be a bad idea for MC to be involved in anything like that.

At any rate, this had more drug use and steamier sex than I generally expect to find in a young adult book. For those wondering, I felt the drug use was at least presented as a negative thing, and the sex (a couple scenes, if I remember right) was explicit enough to include bodily fluids but wasn’t otherwise very detailed.

The second half of the book was better than the first. It included more ghost scenes, including one aspect I love in “I can see ghosts” stories: MC realizing that he can’t always tell when the person he’s seeing or talking to is a ghost or not. Creepy. My favorite instance of this involved a ghost with a connection to one of MC’s friends.

Another nice thing about the second half of the book was the way MC gradually gained self-confidence. He learned that there were more supportive people in his life than he realized, and he started a relationship with a boy who was a much healthier option than Josh. I liked how their relationship progressed, and I liked the way MC did his best to keep from rushing him into anything. They seemed like they’d make a sweet couple.

I thought I’d end up hating this book, but it actually grew on me. I don’t know that I’d ever want to reread it, but if there were ever a sequel I’d probably give it a shot. And I’d hope that Mike got a prominent role. Considering his situation, it was amazing how well-adjusted he was. Instead of ingesting pills like everyone else, he created amazing sculptures.

One thing I’m still wondering about: why MC was never named. At first, I assumed it was a sign of his low self-esteem. If someone had told him he was a character in a book and asked him to guess what his role probably was, in the first half of the book he’d probably have said Trace was the main character and he was her sidekick. He viewed her as perfect and wonderful, while he was anything but. It was painful. He became more confident later on, but when the perfect opportunity presented itself for the author to finally have another character name him, all readers got was something along the lines of “He said my name.” If the name thing had been meant as an indicator of his feelings about himself, it would have made more sense to have someone finally say his name at some point near the end.

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.) ( )
  Familiar_Diversions | Oct 22, 2017 |
I loved this. I wish it were part of a series, because I wasn't finished hanging out with Narrator and his friends. (...I didn't even realise Narrator didn't have a name until I read other people's reviews. That's some good storytelling.)

( )
  JetSilver | Mar 31, 2013 |
Interesting young adult ghost story. This is narrated by a gay teenager whose name we never learn, who starts into a strange and spooky relationship with a ghost, and eventually finds a live love interest, which causes some supernatural drama. Genuinely scary at some points, and also poignant in the characterization of the main character, who was kicked out of his house by his parents for being gay and now lives with an aunt. Recommended.
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  allthesedarnbooks | Jul 18, 2011 |
A spooky but somewhat absurd ghost story. A gay goth kid meets and is preyed upon by the handsome ghost of a jock from the 50s. The atmosphere is tense, and the rapport between this character and his best friend Trace, as well as his best friend's cutie-pie younger brother, are sizzly and fun. Many of the secondary characters, however, speak and behave in a way that struck me as strangely unnatural. And the central ghost story is kind of campy, to be frank. ( )
  kougogo | Mar 10, 2010 |
Reviewed by JodiG. for TeensReadToo.com

What would be more difficult to tell your friends and family: that you are gay or that you can see ghosts?

Late one night, a teenage boy encounters a ghost while walking along a dark stretch of road. The ghost is that of a handsome high school athlete who was killed on that same road in 1957. Now the main character finds himself drawn into an obsessive relationship with the ghost. One that seems to get more dangerous with every encounter.

In addition to his troubled love life, the narrator is in the midst of a family and emotional crisis. While learning to accept his sexual orientation, without exactly "coming out," he has found himself rejected by his own parents. He now lives with his Aunt Jan, who is loving and generous, but will she accept him if she knows he is gay?

With the help of his best friend, Trace, he sets out to help the spirits find peace while trying to find a bit of peace for himself.

Steve Berman has created a clever mix of urban myth, Goth, and ghost story while also tackling the confusing issues as a teen deals with his sexual orientation. VINTAGE is a clever and haunting story with some delightfully creepy scenes. ( )
  GeniusJen | Oct 13, 2009 |
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added by gsc55 | editGreedy Bug Book Reviews, Cindi (Jun 20, 2013)
 
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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.
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A lonely seventeen-year-old who has dreamed of meeting a different and special boy desperately seeks help from his friend Trace, a Goth girl, to free him from the clutches of a handsome ghost he has met on a rural New Jersey highway.

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