It’s not often I read a book that’s laugh out loud funny, breaks all the rules–and I mean ALL the rules that we writers are supposed at least pay lip-service to–and compels me to nag my son to read it because I just know it’s going to appeal to him. A Bad Day For Voodoo by Jeff Strand just happens to be one of those books.
A Bad Day For Voodoo is narrated by Tyler, the young protagonist. So throughout the book Tyler pauses the story to speak directly to the readers–something that if it’s not handled skilfully by the author can just end up bugging the heck out of me. Here, it didn’t bug the heck heck out of me at all. In fact, the narration, with all it’s twists and turns and digressions “fit” the story so perfectly, I could imagine Tyler doing the whole couch-potato thing on the couch opposite me and telling me this story.
Mr. Strand definitely knows his audience–teenagers. More specifically, teenage boys–though girls with a warped sense of humor (and people like me!) will love this book, too. But if you’re looking for the usual teen fare, i.e. a romance or a love-triangle between the main characters, then this book is probably not for you.
Here’s the back cover blurb for A Bad Day For Voodoo:
When your best friend is just a tiny bit psychotic, you should never actually believe him when he says, “Trust me. This is gonna be awesome.”
Of course, you probably wouldn’t believe a voodoo doll could work either. Or that it could cause someone’s leg to blow clean off with one quick prick. But I’ve see it. It can happen.
And when there’s suddenly a doll of YOU floating around out there–a doll that could be snatched by a Rottweiler and torn to shreds, or a gang of thugs ready to torch it, or any random family of cannibals (really, do you need the danger here spelled out for you?)–well, you know that’s just gonna be a really bad day.”
My son is not one of those kids who enjoys writing book reports and analyzing books to death for English class. So, just as I’d hoped he would, he got a huge kick out of Chapter Twenty, which goes like this…
A Bad Day For Voodoo by Jeff Strand – excerpt from Chapter Twenty:
Can you believe it? We’re more than two-thirds into this story. Unless you’re one of those weirdos who always skips ahead to the two-thirds point of the book, I’d like to thank you for sticking with me this far.
Some of you may be reading this book for school. Not as an assigned reading project like Lord of the Flies or Animal Farm, unless you have the coolest teacher ever, but maybe for a book report. Which means that around this point, you’re probably sweating and thinking, Aw, man, did I ever pick the wrong book! There’s no literary value at all! How am I going to write a report on this thing?
Don’t worry. I’ve got your back. I’ve crammed examples of everything your teacher wants to hear about into this one chapter. Pretty sweet, huh? Stephenie Meyer wouldn’t do that for you.
The four of us (Franklin was still unconscious) walked into the hallway. As I stared at Donna’s bedroom door, I couldn’t help but think that when I opened it, I would bear witness to a horrific sight. [Foreshadowing.]
The hallway was eerily silent like a graveyard at midnight. [Simile.] [Also cliche.] It was the spookiest hallway that had ever existed in any house at any point in recorded history. [Hyperbole.]
I [narrator] was a quivering bowl of jelly [metaphor] as we walked down the creepy crawly corridor [alliteration].
“This hallway reminds me of The Shining,” I said. [Allusion.] [Actually, that’s probably more of a reference than an allusion. An allusion would be more subtle, like if I’d said, “I feel like I’m about to walk into Room 217.”] [It’s Room 217 in the book and Room 237 in the movie. They changed it because the hotel where it was filmed had a room 217 but not a Room 237, and they didn’t want to use a real room number, I guess because they didn’t want guests to worry about a scary, naked old woman rising out of the bathtub.]
Our footsteps squeaked like a mouse. [Personification.] [Poor writing.]
I noticed that Kelley still had a piece of my ear on her shirt. It seemed to represent how I hadn’t listened to her. [Symbolism.]
I [hero] [sort of] reached Donna’s door and thought about how you shouldn’t mess with forces you don’t understand [theme] and also about how my head and foot would feel better if only I had a cool, refreshing, raspberry ice tea Snapple [product placement]. I scratched the lightning-shaped scar on my forehead [shameless rip-off of more successful authors] [quote unquote homage], thought about what I was going to post on MySpace [outdated social media reference that fails to connect with readers] and then opened the door.
It was a truly horrific sight.
God, even typing that section made me laugh.
You know what? I reckon this would be a fantastic book for first year high school students to study in English class. I can’t think of a better YA to engage that tough audience of boys who aren’t into angsty teen romances or fantasies. So if you’re a teacher, and you want to be the coolest teacher ever ;-) then perhaps you should try and get this one past your English Department Head. I reckon you could pretty much guarantee the boys in your class would actually read the book from cover to cover for a change. (Speaking of covers: epic win on that one, guys–it’s great!)
But for those of you with teens who need something a little more adult, from this month’s reading list I can highly recommend PUSHING THE LIMITS by Katie McGarry, a gritty contemporary YA featuring my new favorite hero, Noah. And for the ladies? BAD BOYS DO by Victoria Dahl, a contemporary romance that for me was not only very hot, but also poignant and just a little bit heartbreaking. In both these stories I was totally engrossed by the growth and character arcs of each author’s heroine and hero. (BTW, you don’t have to have read the first book in the series to enjoy Bad Boys Do.)
Here’s my full September reading list:
- Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry
- The Surgeon’s Chosen Wife by Fiona Lowe
- Hell to Heaven; Journey to Wudang 2 by Kylie Chan
- Dark Frost by Jennifer Estep
- Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore
- The Dangers of Dating Your Boss by Sue MacKay
- Lady With The Devil’s Scar by Sophia James
- The Doctor, His Daughter and Me by Leonie Knight
- Temptation by Karen Ann Hopkins
- From Father To Son by Janice Kay Johnson
- Bad Boys Do by Victoria Dahl
- Just Desserts by Jeannie Watt
- A Bad Day For Voodoo by Jeff Strand
- Jane’s Warlord by Angela Knight
- Falling Free by Lois McMaster Bujold
- Lifethread by L.j. Charles
- Simply Irresistible by Rachel Gibson
- The Amorous Education of Celia Seaton by Miranda Neville