Damian Serbu’s THE BACHMANN FAMILY SECRET

Damian Serbu has written yet another creepy tale. This is a delicious little book with a YA feel to it. It’s a paranormal/coming of age thriller, and I read it over two nights (delayed only because of unimportant adulting stuff like work where I’m not allowed to read). It would be an excellent addition for high school libraries seeking own voices books for their catalogue—there is nothing explicit beyond some foul language.

The death of Jaret’s grandfather leaves a gap in the family in more ways than one. As everyone prepares to return to the Bachmann family mansion in Nebraska to say goodbye to their patriarch, Jaret’s emotions are already in full boil. He hasn’t told his family that he’s gay, and they already think he has issues. Jaret can see ghosts, and when the shade of his grandfather appears and tries to warn him against going to Nebraska for the funeral, he feels powerless to argue against his no-nonsense father. Once at the mansion, Jaret encounters another apparition who looks eerily like his grandfather but exudes a distinct aura of evil.

Missing family jewels, generations-old secrets, and a disastrous funeral throw the family into turmoil. The malevolent spirit has no qualms about harming anyone that threatens to get in its way. But Jaret’s uncanny gifts are only one link in a very special genetic legacy: one that could allow him to protect the family he loves from the demonic presence in the house.

Jaret’s struggle with a well-meaning mom who can’t understand why he doesn’t have a (female) date for the prom and his cautious, almost fearful respect and uncertainty for his father that keeps him from coming out are believably written and touching. The relationship between Jaret and his siblings are very true to life. The theme of this book is family, and ultimately, how love and acceptance can make someone stronger than they believe they are.

Jaret’s budding romance with small-town football player Steve is a sweet, innocent affair, both young men just coming to terms with being gay and reveling in each other with an adorable “no, you hang up first” kind of relationship. The utter horror of being walked in by a parent during a heavy make-out session is in full, gory display here, given humiliating weight by not having come out to the family yet.

The villain certainly enjoys monologuing and taunting Jaret, which got a little tiresome at times. There were a couple of dead end scenes I felt really weren’t necessary, but the story was compelling enough that even a little nitpicking didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the book as a whole. It’s a fun tale, and definitely recommended.

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