Title- Ride of Your Life
By- Shevi Arnold
Genre- YA Paranormal Romance/Fantasy
Seventeen-year-old Tracy Miller met the love of her life . . . thirty years after her own death.
Tracy was working at the House of Horrors at the Amazing Lands Theme Park when the fire broke out. Instead of running, she lost her life trying to save eleven-year-old Mack. Now thirty years have passed, and suddenly everything changes with the arrival of two new ghosts: a little girl named Ashley and a cute, seventeen-year-old boy named Josh. Josh would do anything for Tracy, but can he help her let go of the past?
Ride of Your Life is a bittersweet, romantic, YA ghost story that was inspired by a true event, the Great Adventure Haunted Castle fire, which killed eight teenagers in 1984, exactly thirty years ago this May 11th. It is a fantasy novel about undying love, and it won third-place in Smart Writer’s Write It Now (W.I.N.) contest in the YA category, which was judged by Alex Flinn, the author of Beastly and Cloaked.
Hang on. Love can be as terrifying as a roller coaster, but it can also be the Ride of Your Life.
Additional information about the Six Flags Great Adventure Haunted Castle fire- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haunted_Castle_(Six_Flags_Great_Adventure)
Mack walked in, eyes opened. He slumped on the wooden chair in the corner, his faced turned away from Tracy.
“I’ll stay,” Josh said.
“You’ve already made that clear,” Tracy mumbled.
She took off her white, gauzy costume and left the white t-shirt and jeans on. Her t-shirt wasn’t all that wet, and the light in the stall wasn’t too bright. Still, she folded her arms over her chest, just in case Josh could see something. She sat on the floorboards against the right wall with a bunch of stuffed animals—silly snakes, fish, lions, zebras, hippopotami, and giraffes—behind her. Ashley cuddled up beside her and placed her head on Tracy’s shoulder. There was a stuffed, bright yellow hound dog between them. Ashley petted it, but she frowned.
“It’s not my Bunby,” she said. “I want my Bunby.”
“This nice doggie misses someone, too,” Tracy said, giving the stuffed hound a pat. “Maybe you can help him feel less lonely.”
Ashley nodded and yawned. “I’m hungry.”
“Me, too,” Josh said, sitting cross-legged in the middle of the floor. “Why is that?”
“Ever hear of a ghost limb?” Tracy asked.
“When someone loses a leg or an arm, but they still feel it?”
“Well, you’ve got a ghost stomach,” Tracy explained. “Ghost hands, nose, mouth: you’ve got a ghost everything. You can still feel your body, even though you don’t have one. That’s why you feel hungry and tired.”
“But there’s a difference,” Mack said. “You don’t have to feel hungry and tired. You can choose what you want and don’t want your ghost body to feel.”
“Like when you chose to not let me hold your hand?” Josh asked.
Mack wrinkled his nose. “You tried to hold Tracy’s hand?”
“After I pinched him,” Tracy said.
“Oh,” Mack replied. “Okay, that makes sense.”
“It does?” Josh asked.
“It does if you know Tracy.”
“I’m hungry,” Ashley said again.
“There’ll be plenty to eat in the morning.” Mack spoke in a too sweet voice, like the condescending host of an educational television show for preschoolers. “In the meanwhile, you can eat in your dreams. What’s your favorite food?”
Ashley put her index finger to her lips and thought a while. “Spaghetti and meatballs.”
“The sooner you go to sleep, the sooner you are going to get the best spaghetti and meatballs you ever had.”
Ashley smiled and closed her eyes. She rested her hand on the toy hound. “Good night, Old Yellow. If you see my Bunby, please tell him I miss him.”
Soon she was fast asleep.
Mack laughed. “Little kids are fun to fool with. This is going to be great. Still wish we could have slept in the bumper cars, though. This stall stinks.”
He leaned back. The wooden chair he sat in remained upright and its backrest poked through his shoulders. His legs rose—as did the rest of him—until his body was almost flat. He turned to face the left wall and curled his body ever so slightly in. A ghostly, overstuffed, white recliner faded in beneath him. He sighed. Soon the rise and fall of his chest made it clear that he too was asleep.
“Can we do that?” Josh whispered, pointing at Mack.
“I don’t know,” Tracy whispered back. “I suppose we can, but Mack is very good at it. It’s as if he was born to be a ghost.” She paused and then quickly added, “Which is exactly why Ashley shouldn’t stay here. We don’t want her to get used to this.”
Josh continued to watch Mack sleep. “I guess it was his fate.”
Tracy huffed. “There’s no such thing as fate.”
Josh turned to face her, his eyebrows raised. He was clearly surprised, but there was something else. What was it? Sadness, perhaps, or pity. Perhaps a bit of both. Tracy’s stomach started to flip flop again, and she looked away.
“You don’t believe in fate?” It was a question, not a statement.
She shrugged. “’Course not.”
“Because . . .” She thought awhile. “Fate means you have no control over your life. No matter what you do, it’ll determine what happens to you. Your choices don’t matter, and that means you aren’t responsible for anything. How can you be, when it’s all fate?”
“Well, I don’t think it’s all fate.” He ran his fingers through his hair again. “You do have control over most of your life. But I think sometimes something happens that you do have no control over, something that was just meant to be. And that’s what fate is.”
“Something like a sweet, little girl dying on a theme-park kiddy ride?” She paused. “You think that was fate?”
“Maybe. I don’t know. But I think it’s more comforting to think it’s a part of some grand plan than a random accident.”
“No, it’s not.” Tracy’s cheeks grew hot, and she clenched her teeth. “You saw the look on her mother’s face. What kind of grand plan lets such horrible things happen? And how can you believe in a plan like that?”
Josh slumped over and sighed. “All I know is that sometimes things happen in life that can’t be explained logically, and fate is really the only explanation.”
“Like dreaming something before it happens even though there’s no way you could know it was going to happen.”
Tracy snorted. “No one has dreams like that. And if you believe anyone who says they do, I have a nice bridge in Brooklyn I’d like to sell you.”
“What if I told you I dreamed that I died trying to save Ashley before it happened?”
Tracy blinked. Was he serious? “If you knew you were going to be killed, why did you get on that ride?”
“I didn’t remember my dream until it was already too late, but I knew everything that would happen before it happened.”
She didn’t know what to say to that. She turned to look at the ribbon of light coming through the gap between the shutters.
Josh paused. “I also had a dream about a girl, the kind of dream you never forget, the kind that feels like it’s trying to tell you something important even though you don’t know what that thing is. At least until it happens, and then you know . . .”
He looked deep into her eyes. The weak light in the stall shined brightly in his. “You know you were meant to be together. You know it was fate.”
She stared back at him. Tracy usually had a quick answer for everything, but what could she say to that? The silence between then stretched awkwardly on.
A flash of lightning momentarily brightened the stall, and thunder boomed two seconds later. The rain pounded on the stall’s tin roof, beating out a loud, quick rhythm. Tracy slowly returned to her place beside Ashley and rested her own head on a fat teddy bear. She faced the back wall, away from Josh. In the darkness, she heard him sigh. The sky outside rumbled.
“Hey,” he said. “Look at that.”
Tracy turned around. Josh was pointing at Ashley. A pink, floral quilt covered the little girl, and her head rested on a soft, pink pillow with a matching pillowcase. Under her arm beside the toy hound, she embraced a ghostly, ratty, blue toy bunny.
“Huh,” Tracy whispered. “What do you know? She found her Bunby.”
Josh smiled, but Tracy worried. Ashley was quickly picking up skills. How long would it take before she got used to being a ghost? And once she did, would they ever be able to convince Ashley that she belonged in the Light?
“Fallen” by Sarah McLachlan
I’ve always envisioned Ride of Your Life Starting with a scene that isn’t in the book, the fire that kills Tracy and Mack thirty years before the start of the story. And I’ve always imagined “Fallen” by Sarah McLachlan playing over Tracy putting on makeup as she gets ready for work at the House of Horrors, talking with her coworkers, hearing Mack’s cries for help, getting overwhelmed by smoke as she drags Mack’s limp body to the door she can’t seem to find, and finally standing hand in hand with Mack as two ghosts looking at the smoldering ruins of the place where they both died. The strong sense of guilt in the song suits Tracy so well, as does the opening line, “Heaven bent to take my hand, lead me through the fire.” Just a perfect way to start this story.
I picture this for the scene where Tracy and Mack are showing Josh and Ashley through the park from a ghost’s point of view. The opening line of the song about how “this clock never seemed so alive” fits very well with how time works for the ghosts in the story, and so does the part about all of the people with nothing to do and how he can’t keep his eyes off of her. In the ghost world, reality is what you believe it to be, and Tracy is the one thing Josh knows he can believe in. As long as he can see her, he knows everything else is still real.
“Collide” by Howie Day
Tracy can let Josh touch her, or she can choose to let him pass through her. I think this would be a great song for either the scene when they first touch hands or when they kiss.
“Iris” by the Goo Goo Dolls
This is the perfect song for a scene later in the book, although I can’t tell you why without spoiling it for you.“You’re the closest to heaven that I’ll ever be” and the rest of the song just sums up Josh’s point of view in that scene so exquisitely.
I’ve always envisioned this as the song that would play over the credits at the end of the movie, which would include clips of the characters having fun in the amusement park, so it’s like their memories of their best times together as ghosts.
There are plenty of places online where you can find lists of the best roller coasters and thrill rides, but I prefer rides that are less thrilling and more fun or even romantic. Here’s a list of my favorite amusement park rides (or amusement-park style rides) that I’ve been on or would love to ride.
1. The London Eye--While the London Eye isn’t in an amusement park, it’s the best Ferris Wheel I’ve ever been on. It’s not cheap, but I highly recommend it to anyone visiting London. Make sure to bring a camera and go with someone you’d love to share the experience with. Double points if you can go with a Doctor Who fan or, better yet, Doctor Who.
2. Men in Black Alien Attack in Universal Orlando--Shoot bad aliens and try to rack up the most points in group. Similar rides include the Toy Story Midway Mania at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Orlando and Hersheypark has Reese’s Xtreme Cup Challenge. I love them all!
3. Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride at Universal Studios--I’ve been to Universal Studios in Orlando, but that was before they opened the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. I’d love to go on the Harry Potter Forbidden Journey ride, so I can know what it feels like to ride a broom over Hogwarts.
4. I’m too chicken to ride it, but I still have to admit that the Manta water roller coaster in Sea World, Orlando is very cool. I think that was my sister and my nieces’ and nephews’ favorite ride of their entire Orlando trip, and that’s saying a lot.
5. Hersheypark’s Chocolate World ride--This couldn’t be less thrilling, but it smells like chocolate, has chocolate everywhere, and when you get off the ride, they give you--what else?--chocolate! And it’s free. You don’t even need to go into the park to ride it. Every time we go to Hershey, we go on the Chocolate World ride several times. It’s so much fun, and so chocolatey!
6. The Disney World transportation system--Staying on Disney property entitles you to use Disney transportation between the parks. and I know it’s silly, but I love the monorail and the water transportation. The monorail gives you great views of the area, and the boat ride between Epcot, the Magic Kingdom, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Disney’s resorts, and Downtown Disney is very relaxing. They’re particularly great at sunset.
7. Spaceship Earth at Epcot--This ride was closed for renovations when we visited the park, and I still want to see it. I’ve heard such great things about it.
8. Muppet Vision 3D at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Orlando--Technically, this is a show, not a ride, but it was the most fun thing I did in Disney World when I visited almost ten years ago. Even the wait before you get into the show has a hysterically funny show. This was Jim Henson’s last project before he died, and it shines with his brilliance.
9. I know it’s silly, but I want to ride the carousel that’s near the Eiffel Tower. And I want to do it at sunset with the man that I love. I think it would be very romantic.
10. Speaking of romantic, I have been on the Kissing Tower at Hersheypark at sunset, and it really is. Check out the short video I shot there.
For more amusement park fun and romance, check out my Ride of Your Life Pinterest page: http://www.pinterest.com/shevistories/ride-of-your-life/ As you can see, amusement parks can be more than long lines followed by short thrill rides. They can be fun, they can be romantic, and the truth is you don’t even need to go to a park to have the time of your life.
Shevi Arnold grew up in Philadelphia, and her family had a season pass to Great Adventure in the early 1980s. She was nineteen-years-old and studying overseas when a fellow college student asked her if she had heard about the Great Adventure Haunted Castle fire. Eight teenagers had lost their lives. Like many, Shevi was shocked by the news. In her mind, she wanted to give that tragedy a happy ending. Ride of Your Life is the result.
Shevi loves writing, illustrating, and making people laugh—and she’s been doing all three since 1987 when she started working as an editorial cartoonist for a newsweekly. She’s also worked as a comics magazine editor, as an arts-and-entertainment writer specializing in comedy and children’s entertainment, and as a consumer columnist. Nowadays, though, she enjoys writing (and sometimes illustrating) humorous fiction, fantasy, and science fiction for children, teens, and geeks of all ages. Her other books include Toren the Teller's Tale, Dan Quixote: Boy of Nuevo Jersey, and Why My Love Life Sucks (The Legend of Gilbert the Fixer, book one). She is currently working on Why It Still Mega Bites, the second book in the Gilbert the Fixer series.