When Tyler’s jerky sophomore-history teacher falsely accuses him of cheating, his somewhat psycho best friend Adam pays to have a voodoo doll made of their teacher.
Despite Tyler’s initial disbelief that the doll could be real, the two try it out the following day. Tyler sticks the doll’s leg with a pin, and his teacher’s leg flies off, spurting blood everywhere. The paramedics take him away. The two boys proceed to freak out—Adam much more so than Tyler, because then he has a voodoo doll made in Tyler’s image to blackmail him from spilling their story to the cops. All of this happens in the first 45 pages, and what ensues is a ridiculously stupid chase to rescue the doll from car-stealing thugs, a Rottweiler and a host of other bizarre and mildly humorous characters before Tyler meets an untimely demise. Strand’s best selling point is his ability to create authentic teen voices and craft wacky plot twists that baffle and surprise readers. The novel’s assets stop there, however. The characterizations are shaky. The plotting is haphazard and dissonant, and the author occasionally inserts his own commentary into the novel at various points, advising readers to “take a break and read the Hunger Games again.”
Readers might do well to take his advice. (Thriller. 12 & up)