Tag Archives: Queer YA Reads

Vintage: A Ghost Story – Steve Berman
Book Reviews
July 6, 2009 posted by Nikki

Vintage: A Ghost Story – Steve Berman

I’ve been trying to write my review of this novel for a few days now. Trying, and failing. So, I’ve decided to take an approach that I don’t normally follow. Instead of launching into a detailed description of plot and character, I’m going to post the blurb as shown on the back of the novel (so you at least get a little insight into what it’s all about), and then I want to discuss a few key literary devices that I thought worked well. This isn’t something I normally do, but I don’t think I can say what I want any other way. So here goes…

A lonely gay teen bides his time with trips to strangers’ funerals and Ouija board sessions, desperately searching for someone to love–and a reason to live following a suicide attempt.

Walking an empty stretch of New Jersey highway on an autumn night, he meets a strange and beautiful boy who looks like he stepped out of a dream. But the vision becomes into a nightmare when the boy turns out to be the local urban legend, the ghost of a star athlete killed in 1957–a ghost with a deadly secret and a dangerous obsession.

Vintage: A Ghost Story is an intense thriller that looks at the dark side of gay urban fantasy, where the dead can never rest and trapped spirits never find peace.

Although this novel is narrated in first person, the narrator has no name. Actually, that might not be entirely true, but if he does have a name, readers never find out what it is. The first time I read Vintage through, I felt that by not giving him a name, the author robbed the narrator of authority. Because he was nameless (and also gay), I felt like the author was trying to tell me that his identity didn’t matter, that being gay meant that he wasn’t worthy of a title like a name. I found myself getting all ticked off about the kinds of impressions that would leave on potential queer teens. However, I was so intrigued by this concept of a nameless narrator that as soon as I finished reading Vintage, I went back to the beginning and started again. I very quickly changed my mind over how I felt about this character. I realised that by not giving him a name, the author was actually empowering the character and inviting you, the reader, to assume his identity and really place yourself in the story. This, then, made the story more powerful and a whole lot more engaging than the first time I read it. This gave me the opportunity to step into his shoes, to not be myself for a few hours and really immerse myself in his world. I now saw that this gave the narrator loads of authority, unlike my previous assumptions.

I also enjoyed the fact that, while not necessarily ‘out’, and although the narrator had certainly encountered adversity because of his sexuality in the past, he seemed more than comfortable as a queer teen. He was not struggling to comes to terms with his sexuality, which was very refreshing. I thought that Vintage highlighted a really clear distinction between comfortably keeping one’s sexuality to himself, and fearfully doing so. Coming out should be the choice of the individual, and just because you’re comfortable with your sexuality doesn’t automatically mean that you have to come out. I really enjoyed this aspect of this novel.

Vintage is a quirky queer teen read that I’m almost certain would be enjoyed by readers both gay and straight. There’s something about a good old ghost story that has a real universal appeal. Watch out for the supernatural sexual encounter!
Rating:: ★★★½☆