New review: Bad Luck by Pseudonymous Bosch

 

April 19, 2017

Genre: Middle grade adventure

Rated: Bookmark it!

The trials and tribulations continue for a group teens marked as “troubled” who are spending the summer at a special island camp. When a mysterious guest washes up on the shore of the island, the teens will need to find a way to help the guest and protect the secret they discover along the way from enemies who arrive as well. Author Pseudonymous Bosch follows up the first book in the Bad series with a worthy sequel in Bad Luck.

Clay has finally figured out what Earth Ranch is all about. It’s not a camp for teens with behavior problems. That’s just a cover so people don’t find out that it’s actually a place for teens with special talents. Despite some hiccups when he first arrived, Clay has begun to make a place for himself with the others.

Not everything has changed, however. Flint, one of the senior campers, still gives Clay a hard time, including leaving him stranded on the beach during an activity. Clay happens to be there just in time to see a kid washed up on the shore. But what is he doing there? And just how did he get there?

After Clay helps the boy, Brett, and gets him talking, he finds out that Brett comes from money. A lot of money. Brett’s father just bought a cruise ship, which Brett was on. Until he got pushed overboard.

As Clay and Brett try to figure out just why someone wants to drown Brett, they stumble upon a secret on the island. The secret ties into Brett’s mysterious appearance at Earth Ranch, and now Clay must figure out how to protect both Brett and the secret. He’s not sure if he can, but if the Earth Ranch campers can pretend to be ordinary kids then he’s got to give this a chance.

Author Pseudonymous Bosch hits all the quirky, fun notes from the first book in the trilogy as well as his first series. Unlike other authors, Bosch connects the Bad books to the Secret series yet manages to make the Bad books their own set of stories. Fans of the Secret series will find reading the Bad books an enriching experience, but readers new to any of the books can also enjoy them without feeling like they’re missing too much.

Clay epitomizes the typical teen in the target audience, and readers will appreciate his frustrations with being at the camp. The fact that he misses his older brother also rings true in the best of ways. Clay doesn’t want to focus too much on his brother’s sudden disappearance, but it’s an inherent part of him and his life and forms a focal point that reappears at emotional times. Bosch does a wonderful job of balancing the desire of a teenager to come off as all put together with the inner child who just wants to know what happened to the person he loved most in the world.

The book loses a little ground on the limitations set by its story world. Earth Ranch is an island with a live volcano, so there’s only so much physical space that the characters can explore before the story really has to take a fantastical turn to stay engaging. Where the Secret series and even Bad Magic stay grounded in a relatable reality, Bad Luck gets into a little bit of a space of suspended belief. Bosch manages to pull off the entire plot, but it’s a little bit of a shame that he couldn’t continue the same essence of the Secret series of putting characters in situations that feel accessible at all times.

Nevertheless, Bad Luck does promise—and deliver—a fantastic climax that leads into a cliffhanger, which Bosch promises to conclude in Bad News with characters from the Secret series returning to help save the day. And his sense of humor remains constant throughout, a feature that makes the books a must read as much for his irreverence as for the fun random bits of trivia he shares. I recommend readers Bookmark Bad Luck.

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