When you went to high school, did you have a teacher that you just didn't like? Actually, hate might be a better word. I know I had one. He was an English teacher, a miserable bastard of an English teacher to be precise. In the case of Jeff Strand's protagonist, Tyler Churchill, he hates his his tenth grade history teacher, Mr. Click. So does Tyler's best friend Adam, to the extent that Adam buys a voodoo doll for Tyler, as a silly act of revenge against their teacher. Just one problem: the voodoo doll is real and is way more powerful than either Tyler or Adam could have dared imagine.
The story movies along at a frenetic pace once the voodoo doll comes into play, as sticking a pin into the doll's leg and then seeing their teacher's leg detach from his body in a violent eruption, sending both boys into a panicked sense of terror and paranoia. How Tyler and Adam each handle the event is like the different between night and day. What ensues is a farcical fright-fest with the boys winding up in possession of a new doll, this one designed to symbolize Tyler, and the outright horror of what might happen to Tyler if anything happens to the doll.
Throw in a cavalcade of crazy characters that the boys encounter during a single night of wild-eyed wandering in hopes of getting the woman who made the doll to take away its powers. Readers no sooner get a sense of how one tension-filled scene might play out, then Jeff concocts a brand new dilemma for the boys to deal with on their fear-fueled romp.
A Bad Day for Voodoo feels like the Corey Haim/Corey Feldman movie that never got made. A bit of Ferris Bueller's Day Off, mixed with Weekend at Bernie's, and some Tales from the Crypt for seasoning. The story is told through Tyler's recounting, which is effective in its humor most of the time, but Jeff gets a bit too playful for my tastes with the literary hijinks in how Tyler tells the story, especially towards the end. The charm of the book comes from the zaniness of the subject matter, and the balance between humor and horror is achieved as only Jeff can do. A fun, fast read for young and old alike, so long as they have a devilishly dark sense of humor.