Book review: Hoodoo

What’s worse than being six years old and too sick for trick-or-treating on Halloween? Not much.

My youngest is home with a fever today, and between Dan TDM videos (Minecraft fans know what I’m talking about), we’re reading spooky books.

Ronald L. Smith’s Hoodoo is a little intense for a six-year-old; I’d say it’s geared for 10 and up. And it’s creepy as all get-out, so make sure your reader likes a good, scary story.

Twelve-year-old Hoodoo Hatcher lives with his grandmother, Mama Frances, in a small Alabama town in the 1930s, conveyed through Hoodoo’s wonderful voice and observations: “Supposedly [my daddy] went and put a curse on a man in Tuscaloosa County, but I didn’t believe that. I didn’t think I’d ever know the real truth.”

Mysteries surround Hoodoo. He comes from a family that practices “folk magick,” but he’s never shown any abilities, despite the heart-shaped birthmark on his cheek that inspired his name: “That child is marked. He got hoodoo in him.” Yet suddenly a Stranger is after him, growling strange things about “The One That Did the Deed.”

As Hoodoo’s nightmares start to affect the waking world, Hoodoo needs to solve mysteries: What does the Stranger want? And how is his father mixed up in it? When Mama Frances and Pa Manuel finally tell him the truth, Hoodoo must learn some serious magic fast, or his entire family–and his town–will be destroyed.

This is a real page-turner, and Smith creates an immersive world where the line between natural and supernatural is believably thin. Hoodoo and the other characters are warm, loving, and funny, overcoming their flaws in interesting (and sometimes heartbreaking) ways. Hoodoo learns about bravery, loyalty, self-sufficiency, and family bonds by the satisfying conclusion.

I’d recommend this for older fans of Goosebumps, the later Harry Potter books, and other scary titles. Sad and frightening things happen in the story; characters kill and die. It’s not for sensitive readers. But this is a great, thrilling read. It’s such an immersive experience that I found myself jumping at noises in the dark!

Worthwhile, especially for a dark and stormy Halloween night.