Stranger Things Have Happened

304p. ebook available. Sourcebooks/Fire. Apr. 2017. pap. $10.99. ISBN 9781492645399.
Gr 7 Up—Fifteen-year-old Marcus Millian III aspires to become a magician and follow in the footsteps of Harry Houdini, Penn and Teller, David Copperfield, and Zachary the Stupendous. The latter was the stage name of his once legendary 89-year-old great-grandfather, Grandpa Zachary Millian, who recognizes true talent in his great-grandson. When Grandpa Zachary's rival, theater owner Bernard, suggests that Marcus is more suited for birthday parties than for large audiences, Grandpa Zachary wages a bet with Bernard that Marcus will pull off an illusion that will shock, stun, and astonish the world. Marcus unwillingly accepts this challenge to honor Grandpa Zachary's legacy. His illusion? Making a shark disappear from a tank. Events tumble wildly downhill as Marcus prepares for his impossible act. Along the way, he confronts bullying, mysterious and dangerous plots, unrequited love, and even death. A sarcastic tone adds to the enjoyment of this story, which captures a refreshing closeness between a teenager and his great-grandfather. The intergenerational bond is made even more believable through flashbacks that depict Grandpa Zachary creating magic with Marcus throughout his childhood. Strand maintains a taut pace with cliff-hanger endings to each chapter, even as he explores larger themes of confidence, perseverance, loyalty, peer pressure, bullying, family relationships, and the role of practice in developing skills.
VERDICT Recommended for teens with an interest in magic as well as those who like Gilmore Girls—like rapid wit. A solid choice for most collections.

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