Defying the Ghosts cover

Original cover

Defying the Ghosts original cover

A teen without a home. A dangerous residence.
Can she survive one terrifying night to secure her future?

Charlene Griffin never thought she'd be without a home. But when she's kicked out on her eighteenth birthday, she has no choice but to sleep inside an ominous Victorian mansion. And with the owner offering the estate to anyone who can spend a full night in the haunted property, Charlene decides to risk life and limb to get off the streets.

Refusing to heed the warnings of those sent running in fear for their lives, Charlene is confident she can last from sunset to sunrise. But she'll need all her wits about her to withstand the hours of terror, because these ghosts are determined to get rid of her.

Will Charlene outsmart her supernatural foes and make it to dawn?

Defying the Ghosts is an eerie YA haunted house story. If you like heart-racing action, fearless heroes, and survival adventures, then you'll love Joan Marie Verba's thrilling tale.

Buy Defying the Ghosts to explore forbidden shadowy corners today!

A ghost needs space to haunt, and a teenager kicked out of the house by a mother unable to love, lacking money for a rental, and looking for a safe place to stay doesn't have it to offer. But the haunted house offered to Charlene if she can last the night has lost its original family, driven other would-be claimants out by the aggressive late residents, and Charlene is too determined to give up on the only option she's been able to find. Instead of exorcisms or high-tech spirit guns firing special-effects rays, she tries a simpler method for dealing with ghostly threats: compassion, fueled by stubbornness and courage. Joan Marie Verba's Defying the Ghosts offers the eerie dangers expected of ghosts, but works through to a slime-less conclusion offering an elegant win to both the living and the dead. —Ruth Berman, Minnesota Fantasy Award recipient, Midwest Book Award winner for Bradamant's Quest


Read: click here to read chapter 1 of the novel    

Shelf Unbound

Defying the Ghosts has been listed by Shelf Unbound as one of the "2021 Top Notable Indies".

Shelf Unbound page

Shelf Unbound Award
MCA Award
Mom's Choice Award

Defying the Ghosts has received the Mom's Choice Award, honoring excellence in family-friendly media, products and services.

Mom's Choice Awards page

5-star review by Amy Powers for Readers' Favorite
5 stars

Defying the Ghosts by Joan Marie Verba tells the suspenseful story of a young woman's creepy night in a haunted house. After her mother kicks her out of her house on her eighteenth birthday, Charlene spends the next few weeks scouting homeless shelters and camping out in the back room of the bookstore where she works. Charlene thinks she might be in luck when she hears of a challenge: anyone who can spend the entire night in the local haunted house gets to keep the house. It seems simple enough, but Charlene will soon risk her life on the most horrifying night of her life as she faces the multiple ghosts who do not want anyone else in their home.
For any reader who is looking for a new kind of horror story, Defying the Ghosts is a great choice for both teens and adults. I never knew it was possible to write a book that was simultaneously terrifying and heartwarming, but Joan Marie Verba has flawlessly managed to do just that. Charlene's story is eye-opening and brings to light the everyday problems and prejudices that...people face when they are trying to survive. The spooky moments of the haunted house are fast-paced, suspenseful, and overall fun to read. I was on the edge of my seat the whole time Charlene was in the house, and I could not put the book down. I can't wait to see what other horror tales Verba has in store.

Reader's Favorite review page

5 star review seal
Critic's Report: The BookLife Prize by Publisher's Weekly

Plot: Homeless and desperate, eighteen-year-old Charlene Griffin must spend the night alone in a Victorian mansion of terrors in order to earn the right to claim the property as her future home. This YA novel is as much about resiliency as it is about ghosts. The minutiae of Charlene's situation--being a homeless teen--are described realistically. While spending the night in the haunted house Charlene encounters plenty of snakes, unexplained thuds, disembodied voices, fire, unexpected physical limitations, and, yes, ghosts, which she confronts with intelligence and courage. The ghosts serve to create the terror necessary for a horror story, but they are also metaphors for emotional rites of passage in this hero's quest for autonomy and maturity.
Plot/Idea: 10
Prose/Style: This is an easy read for anyone with middle school reading abilities, and the action and huge cast of ghosts and their histories makes the novel interesting....
Prose: 8
Originality: This novel is remarkable for its non-sentimental treatment of teen homelessness... . It is also an exposition on children and parents, what parents' obligations to their children are, and what happens when parents fail to meet those responsibilities.
Originality: 10
Character Development/Execution: Charlene is an utterly believable and sympathetic character whose willingness to face her difficult situation and do what is necessary to deal with it is admirable. She is a great role model for preteens and early teens.
Character/Execution: 10
Overall: 9.50

The BookLife Prize page

About the author

Joan Marie Verba (she/her) is an autistic author, publisher, and web developer. She also sews. She earned a bachelor of physics degree from the University of Minnesota and attended the graduate school of astronomy at Indiana University, where she was an associate instructor of astronomy for one year. She has worked as a computer programmer and health coach. She currently works as a writer, an editor/publisher and a web developer and social media consultant. She is a member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Association and The International Association of Media Tie-In Writers.

The author opens the box of books
Reading from Defying the Ghosts:
Interview with Joan Marie Verba about Defying the Ghosts:


On her eighteenth birthday, Charlene Griffin is thrown out of the house by her widowed mother. She has a job, but no place to live. Now she needs to find a permanent place to stay, but it isn't easy for her. The offer of a house, even if it is haunted, catches her attention.


The Bookstore

Charlene Griffin works at the Zephyr Butterfly Bookstore. The bookstore is located in a strip mall. Amy Snow is the owner. Rachel Park also works there. Storytime is on Wednesday morning.


The House

The Dalrymple mansion is haunted, and the current owner, Lester Wolf, doesn't want it. He is offering the house to anyone who can stay overnight. But the ghosts don't want the house to change owners, and they're willing to go to any lengths to keep the house to themselves. Many have tried to claim the house. None have succeeded. Will Charlene Griffin be able to banish the ghosts and claim the house?


The Challenge

Charlene knew the task would not be easy. She interviewed those who had tried and failed before her. She looked up the history of the house and its residents. She thought she was prepared. But she had no idea of the challenges ahead of her.