Gr 6-8-A dual-narrative told through the journal of a boy who died in 1908 and through a modern teen's first-person account. After the death of her younger brother, Jess's family moves to a tourist ranch in Alberta that her father plans to operate. He is an insensitive boor and her mother is deeply depressed, so Jess must help keep the business afloat. She does so with the assistance of several likable characters who work for her father, including Ben, an enigmatic young man who is no stranger to tragedy himself. Soon Jess begins to sense supernatural presences. Her mother becomes convinced that her dead son is trying to contact her but, as the title reveals, it is not his spirit that is haunting the ranch. Several of the characters are well developed and interesting, but the parents are irritatingly dense and unable to deal with their feelings. The ghost boy feels a murderous hatred for his mother; Jess looks upon her father with disgust and, later, pity. The mystery of what happened to the family from long ago is suspenseful, and Jess's developing relationship with Ben adds a touch of romance. There is not enough action, however, to sustain readers' avid interest for the length of the novel. Nevertheless, the book is appropriate for collections in which ghost stories are popular.-Bruce Anne Shook, Mendenhall Middle School, Greensboro, NC
When Jessica Locke's brother, Scotty, dies in an accident on a camping trip that their father forced him to take, her father buries his grief by moving the family to a tourist ranch. The new home becomes the focus of all his time and attention while his wife withdraws, wrapped in a cloak of mourning and depression. When Mrs. Locke starts thinking that she is seeing Scotty's spirit, Jess begins to fear for her mother's sanity, until Jess, too, begins to sense there is something haunting the old farmhouse. After some investigation, she suspects it is not Scotty but, rather, the ghost of a young boy who died, or was murdered, in the house years before. Although many stories like this are plot driven, the strength of this novel lies with Jessica and the large cast of well-developed, believable supporting characters. The author's intermingling of events in Jessica's life with entries from the dead boy's diary works remarkably well to support the nicely crafted supernatural aspects, to build suspense, and to allow Jessica's grief, fears, and growth to remain at the center of the novel. A mystery, a ghost tale, a love story, and a touching coming-of-age narrative, this is truly a book with something for almost everyone.