Title: Stranger Things Have Happened
Author: Jeff Strand
Pub Date: April 4, 2017
You can’t always believe what you see in this hilarious coming of age novel from the author of The Greatest Zombie Movie Ever and I Have a Bad Feeling about This
Harry Houdini. Penn and Teller. David Copperfield. Marcus Millian the Third.
Okay, so Marcus isn’t a famous magician. He may not even be a great magician. But his great-grandfather, the once-legendary and long-retired Zachary the Stupendous, insists Marcus has true talent. And when Grandpa Zachary boasts that he and Marcus are working on an illusion that will shock, stun, and astonish, Marcus wishes he could make himself disappear.
The problem? Marcus also has stage fright—in spades. It’s one thing to perform elaborate card tricks in front of his best friend, Kimberly, but it’s an entirely different feat to perform in front of an audience.
Then Grandpa Zachary dies in his sleep.
To uphold his great-grandfather’s honor, the show must go on. It would take a true sorcerer to pull off the trick Marcus has planned. But maybe he’s the next best thing…
JEFF STRAND lives in Tampa, Florida. He is the author of A Bad Day for Voodoo, I Have a Bad Feeling About This, and The Greatest Zombie Movie Ever. Explore his website at jeffstrand.com.
Hello. I'm author Jeff Strand. If you tolerated A Bad Day For Voodoo, were ambivalent toward I Have a Bad Feeling About This, and had little or no opinion regarding The Greatest Zombie Movie Ever, I'm pleased to announced that you'll be equally unenthused about my latest YA novel, Stranger Things Have Happened.
It's an extremely silly comedy about 15-year-old Marcus Millian III, who aspires to be a legendary magician like his great-grandfather, Zachary the Stupendous. The problem (well, the first problem of many) is that he suffers from paralyzing stage fright. That's a bit of an issue when you want to be a stage magician.
Some stuff happens, and Marcus finds himself part of a bet between Grandpa Zachary and his arch-nemesis Bernard. Marcus has to invent and perform a ridiculously amazing illusion that will astound the audience at Bernard's theater. Yeah, this is going to be a challenge, but at least he's got Grandpa Zachary to help him. Until Grandpa Zachary dies in his sleep.
So now Marcus is on his own. Well, not entirely. He's got his neighbor (and secret crush) Kimberly to help out, along with the very socially awkward and heavily bullied new kid, Peter, who has...secrets. Together they will work to create the ultimate illusion, one that may or may not involve making a shark disappear from a tank in front of a live audience.
Also, there's a really evil guy named Sinister Seamus. Watch out for him.
Readers who are into magic (of the Penn & Teller variety, not Harry Potter) should enjoy this book because that's kind of what the whole thing is about. Readers who are into books that are filled with silly (some might even say stupid) jokes should also enjoy it. It's also about overcoming obstacles and following your dreams, if that's the angle you want to play.
Marcus stared at Grandpa Zachary in horror. He wouldn’t really call him up to the stage to perform a magic trick in front of fifty strangers, would he?
He shook his head a bit, hoping to telepathically convey his message of NO NO NO NO NO NO NO!
Grandpa Zachary smiled in a way that implied he had not received the message. “As most of you know, I used to be Zachary the Stupendous. How many of you like magic?”
Since Grandpa Zachary had not specified the method by which the audience was supposed to answer, people in the crowd raised their hands, applauded, cheered, and/or said, “Me!” A woman standing next to Marcus folded her arms in front of her chest and scowled.
“You there,” said Grandpa Zachary, pointing to the woman. “Surely you enjoy magic!”
The woman shook her head.
“I guess I’m just no fan of the devil.”
“This isn’t that kind of magic. I assure you no goats will be sacrificed here, especially since we’re raising money for an animal shelter. The magic of which I speak is the art of illusion.”
“Oh, that’s okay then,” said the woman.
“Ladies and gentlemen, everyone has to start somewhere. Before the great William Shakespeare wrote some of the most enduring works in the English language, he almost certainly wrote about a dolphin on the moon and spelled most of the words wrong. Before Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone, he probably invented a prototype that burned your ear like a hot iron.”
Marcus narrowed his eyes. He understood the point that his great-grandfather was trying to make, but he was making it very poorly.
Grandpa Zachary harrumphed. “I can see by the expression on a certain young man’s face that my analogy is insulting instead of inspiring. So I present to you the first-ever public performance by the amazing, the astounding, the gobsmacking…Marcus Millian the third!”
“No, thank you,” said Marcus.
“Don’t be hesitant,” said Grandpa Zachary. “Do you know what happens when you throw a non-swimmer into the ocean?”
“They drown?” asked Marcus.
“They get eaten by sharks?” someone else volunteered.
“Sometimes, but that’s not where I’m going with this.” Grandpa Zachary looked out into the audience. “Does anybody else have an answer?”
“The kid was right. They usually drown,” said a man standing in the back. “It’s a horrible way to go. Way worse than falling onto a pit of spikes. If you ever have the choice of how to die, go for the spikes. Trust me.”
“Could we hear from somebody less ghoulish?” asked Grandpa Zachary.
A woman with an overflowing plate of peanut butter crackers raised her hand. “They learn to swim.”
“Until they’re pulled beneath the dark surface of the water by the jaws of a shark,” the man interjected. “Sure, it’s nice that they learned to swim so quickly, but that doesn’t do you any good without arms or legs.”
“Did you have a bad childhood?” Grandpa Zachary asked.
The man shrugged. “There were some rough patches.”
Grandpa Zachary stared at him for a moment and then returned his attention to the rest of the audience. “My point was that in order to achieve greatness, sometimes we must face our fears before we think we’re ready. And so, I present to you a beguiling illusion by the awe-inspiring, gasp-inducing prodigy…Marcus Millian the third!”
The audience applauded politely. Marcus stood there, motionless, as if his entire body had been covered with shellac.
“I didn’t bring my cards,” he said.
“Nonsense,” said Grandpa Zachary. “You always carry a deck of cards. I can see card-shaped bulges in your pockets right now.”
Marcus knew that he had two options. One, he could drop to the floor, curl into the fetal position, close his eyes, cover his ears, and let out a high-pitched shriek until everybody became so uncomfortable that they vacated the premises. Or two, he could go on stage and do a trick.
Option one sounded very appealing.
Nah, he’d just do a trick.
The audience applauded again as Marcus walked to his doom. “You’ll do great, I promise,” said Grandpa Zachary, handing him the microphone with a wink.
“Hello,” said Marcus. “For my first trick, I will make my great-grandfather disappear.”
Marcus waved him away, and Grandpa Zachary walked back into the audience as everybody laughed. Maybe performing for an audience wouldn’t be so bad. It might even be fun. It was what he’d always wanted, right? He could do this. Move over, David Blaine. Marcus Millian III would amaze them all!
“I’m going to need a volunteer,” he said.
“Me! Me!” said a little boy, waving his hand so frantically that Marcus worried that it might fly off and hit somebody. “Me! Me! Me! Me! Mememe! Me!”
Marcus didn’t really want to do this trick with such a young volunteer, but the crowd immediately went, “Awwwww,” so Marcus didn’t really have a choice without disappointing the crowd.
“Come on up here,” said Marcus, wondering how much sweat weight he’d lost in the past ninety seconds.
The little boy ran over to him.
“What’s your name?” asked Marcus. He held the microphone to the little boy’s mouth.
“Donnie. I’m five.”
“Nice to meet you, Donnie.”
“I’m five.” Donnie pretended to take a bite out of the microphone.
“What do you do for a living, Donnie?” Marcus asked. The audience chuckled.
Donnie turned toward the audience, his face red with fury. “Don’t laugh at me!”
Marcus placed a comforting hand on the boy’s shoulder. “It’s okay, Donnie. They were just laughing at my joke.”