Bizarre Summer Camp Island Adventure
by Pseudonymous Bosch
Series: Bad Magic (Book 1)
Publication Date: September 16, 2014
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
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Magic is BAD.
As in fake. Cheesy. Unreal. At least, that’s what Clay, who has seen one magic show too many, thinks. When words from his journal appear mysteriously on his school wall as graffiti, he never imagines that magic might be to blame. And when the same graffiti lands him at Earth Ranch, a camp for “troubled” kids on a remote volcanic island, magic is the last thing he expects to find there.
But at Earth Ranch, there is one strange surprise after another, until Clay no longer knows what to expect. Is he really talking to a llama? Did he really see a ghost? What is the scary secret hidden in the abandoned library? The only thing he knows for sure is that behind the clouds of vog (volcanic smog), nothing is as it seems. Can he solve the riddle of Earth Ranch before trouble erupts?
Clay is a typical almost-teenaged boy who has led an anything but typical life. His psychologist parents were completely overbearing with his older brother Max-Ernest (they couldn’t agree on a name, so they gave him both). Twelve years down the road when Clay is born, regretful of their mistakes with Max-Ernest, Clay’s parents resort to hands-off parenting. This essentially means that Clay is raised first by Max-Ernest who teaches him magic, and later, after Max-Ernest disappears, by himself.
Clay is changed by Max-Ernest’s sudden vanishing act — he stops reading for pleasure and stops practicing magic. Two years later, his life revolves around skateboarding and graffiti art (though he’s never defaced any walls besides those in his bedroom). When Clay’s teacher asks the class to write an in-class essay on the role of magic in Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Clay freezes up. Magic is altogether too real to him, and tortured by conflicted emotions surrounding his brother’s disappearance, he just can’t put pen to paper. His teacher gives him a journal used in their stage production of the play and promises Clay credit if he’ll just write in it — anything! Angry and hurt, Clay takes the journal home, scrawls “Magic Sucks!”. The next day at school, Clay’s graffiti-style drawing appears on the exterior wall of the classroom, tagged with his signature, just as it appeared in the journal. Never mind that he didn’t actually do it — Clay is busted!
The school and Clay’s parents insist on consequences. If Clay wants to return for seventh grade in the fall, he has no choice but to toe the line, which means attending a summer camp for juvenile delinquents. So Clay boards a beat-up old seaplane that takes him to Earth Ranch on Price Island. And that’s where the adventure begins!
Our narrator is one of those third person omniscient types. And just in case you forget, he’ll remind you how much he knows through funny editorializing and footnotes. These can be a touch intrusive at times, but if you stick with it, you’ll be rewarded with some trivia about bananas and such (Trust me on this one!). Since our story takes place on an island, the narrator makes reference to other island tales of television and literature like Gilligan’s Island, Fantasy Island, Robinson Crusoe, Treasure Island, and most notably, The Tempest. Kids need not have read Shakespeare or watched 70s TV to understand the references since the narrator will tell them all they need to know. But maybe they might want to read (or see) The Tempest.
Bad Magic isn’t a character study; it’s a bizarre, off-the-wall adventure story with bits of mystery and magic thrown in. From square one on the island, things are not what they appear, and what they appear to be is sometimes very surreal — Spanish-speaking llamas named Como Se Llama inhabit the island, along with some very intelligent guard bees. Kids will definitely remain engaged as there are many twists and turns that keep you guessing about what’s really at work behind Earth Ranch. And in case the mystery alone isn’t enough, there’s a pretty killer action sequence involving an active volcano! Stealthy author Pseudonymous Bosch himself proves to be a master magician, using enough sleight of hand and misdirection along the way that when he finally shows his cards for the big finish, it comes as a surprise. One welcome enough to motivate you to read the next in the series!
— Dawn Teresa
4 of 5 hearts. Bizarre Summer Camp Island Adventure.
In Bad Magic, Pseudonymous Bosch has pulled an inventive tale of mystery and magic out of his hat. Kids should have no trouble following it through to its unexpected conclusion and getting on board with this new series.
*Disclosure of Material Connection: I would like to thank Little, Brown Books for Young Readers and NetGalley for allowing me access to the title. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”