With Lake Thirteen, Greg Herren has written a ghost story that will not only appeal to its teenaged target audience, but a story that will also resonate with anyone who remembers the summer vacations of their youth. You know the type – multiple families traveling to a seemingly distant location in separate cars, the children eager to explore their new surroundings together. And like most of those vacations, the journey described in Herren’s novel hardly goes as planned.
The central focus of the story is Scotty Thompson, seventeen years old and deep in the throes of adolescence. As if those years are not difficult enough, Scotty has recently come out to his parents and has sent e-mails to the other teens going on the trip, confessing his secret. With no replies from his friends, he is understandably nervous about the impending gathering.
It is to Herren’s credit that Scotty’s sexual orientation quickly becomes a non-issue for his circle of friends. Arriving at their cabins in upstate New York, Scotty begins to believe that this year’s vacation will be just like all the others. However, that relaxed feeling doesn’t even last through the first night.
In an effort to avoid the onset of boredom, the teens make a plan to sneak away and explore the old cemetery they passed down the road. Scotty stumbles upon a gravestone for Albert Tyler, a seventeen-year-old who died in the early 1900’s. Shivers run down Scotty’s spine when he notices that he shares the same birthday with this dead boy.
Feeling a sudden sense of deep melancholia, Scotty is transfixed by tragic thoughts he can’t control. The other teens do not notice Scotty’s trance-like state, nor do they feel the cold descending upon the mountain graveyard. This phenomena seems to be affecting Scotty exclusively.
Over the course of the following week, events continue to get stranger. Scotty begins to see weird visions of a boy – a boy who looks remarkably like Marc, the new boyfriend that Scotty left behind in his hometown. At first, everyone assumes that this is just a symptom of missing Marc, but when they travel to the historical society to ask some questions they uncover photographic proof that something odd is definitely happening.
The isolated setting deep in the woods, where cell phones rarely work, helps ratchet up the suspense and before they know it, these families are embroiled in a clash with history.
Greg Herren tells Scotty’s story in quick chapters and readers will feel that urge to connect the pieces to determine what is going on. Filled with atmospheric and spooky episodes, teens looking for thrills will certainly find them within the pages of Lake Thirteen. Greg Herren certainly understands that a ghost story is the perfect conceit for a tale of a boy struggling to understand where he fits in the world.
Disclaimer: An e-galley of this title was provided to BOLO Books by the publisher. No review was promised and the above is an unbiased review of the novel.