At 15, Marcus Millian III, the great-grandson of the famous Zachary the Stupendous, is already a talented illusionist. But when Marcus chokes during a card trick and leaves the audience unimpressed, prideful Zachary promises that he and Marcus are working on an illusion that will shock, stun, and astonish. That night, Zachary dies in his sleep.
To uphold the honor of Marcus’s beloved great-grandfather, the show must go on, and Marcus will need to make a shark disappear in front of everybody. It would take a sorcerer to pull this off, but, hey, Marcus is the next best thing…right?
I had loved how humorous Strand’s earlier book The Greatest Zombie Movie Ever had made me laugh throughout and was expecting more of the same from this book – a young teenage boy setting out to do the impossible with lots of optimism and screwing up in hilarious ways. Stranger Things Have Happened has the humor part down, but the plot is basically non-existent. It is pretty straightforward in that Marcus wants to do an amazing illusion for his first stage performance, and he ends up doing it somehow in the end. The in-between part – the getting there was filled with minefields like bullies, an evil magician who increases the stakes, and a shortening deadline.
I won’t deny that it was funny, but the humor also felt manufactured when you have characters that speak in overly polite tones even while arguing, and go off on tangents while conversing. I can get behind one or at the most two characters doing that, but this was nearly all the characters – it gets old pretty fast. You will enjoy for the laughs but also be like – no way that could happen. It was like reading an SNL sketch. While TGZME had relied on everyday humor and a little of the impossible to keep you clutching your stomach while laughing throughout, this one mostly will make you giggle at the most. One third of the book is Marcus freaking out about the performance, and another third is about the characters politely arguing with each other, and the rest of the third is the actual funny things happening like a shark getting loose.
If you like a short book for quick laughs, give it a shot, but don’t expect much of a plot from this one.
Received an advance reader copy in exchange for a fair review from Sourcebooks Fire, via Netgalley.