Growing up in 1980s Niagara Falls–a seedy but magical, slightly haunted place–Jake Baker spends most of his time with his uncle Calvin, a kind but eccentric enthusiast of occult artifacts and conspiracy theories. The summer Jake turns twelve, he befriends a pair of siblings new to town, and so Calvin decides to initiate them all into the “Saturday Night Ghost Club.” But as the summer goes on, what begins as a seemingly lighthearted project may ultimately uncover more than any of its members had imagined. With the alternating warmth and sadness of the best coming-of-age stories, The Saturday Night Ghost Club examines the haunting mutability of memory and storytelling, as well as the experiences that form the people we become.
I was really excited for this book when I heard the premise of it, but it fell short for me – I think that’s more of an expectation problem where I was hoping for a certain thing and didn’t get it. While I did enjoy the story as a whole, I didn’t really connect with it. It is a coming of age story, but also talks a lot about cancer (specifically in the brain) and trauma to the brain and its effects. We follow Jake primarily during the summer of his 12th year, but also follow him as an adult for part of the book. He spends the summer checking out locations of local legends with his uncle and a couple new friends – the stories themselves, as his uncle tells them, are dark and compelling – but there isn’t as much supernatural as I would have hoped. I had pretty much guessed the reveal (at least the jist of it) about 2/3 of the way through the book, but even having done that there were still some surprise elements. Definite trigger warnings for talk of cancer and tumors, trauma to the brain (and how the brain copes with trauma), talk of brain surgery in detail and loss of loved ones.