The Book of Bad Things by Dan Poblocki

bookofbadthingsI should keep a notebook of bad things so I’ll always be able to look out for them. I should have started it 30 years ago but better late than never.

BAD THING # 1

Never eat anything out of the staff room vending machines. The trail mix expired two years ago and the grape juice has gone back to grapes.

BAD THING #87 (you know there’s a lot of  bad things in-between  #1 and #87 but I’m trying to catch up on 30 years of bad things)

Run from anyone who says “Hey. Pull my finger.”

BAD THING # 192

Never get in the car with your grandpa who stops at stop lights and says “Is the light green or red? Tell me when it’s green.”

In The Book of Bad Things, Cassidy Bean lives in New York City in a one bedroom apartment with a mom who doesn’t take much of an interest in her daughter’s life. Most single moms would give up that room so their kid could feel like they had space to be alone in. Cassidy doesn’t get the bedroom.  She sleeps on the couch. She keeps a notebook of every bad thing she can think of. It’s her way of meeting her fears head on. When you recognize the scary thing in the dark you’re still scared, but you can come up with a plan. Some of her Bad Things are about zombies, ghosts, hauntings, sleep walking and nightmares.

For the last three summers she’s been a part of a program that pairs up city kids with families in a more rural setting, as in, a house and a lawn and neighbors who don’t scream at all hours of the night. This is her last year with her host family because the cut off age is 13. She’s fallen in love with the Tremont family over the years because they were so welcoming and treated her like one of their own. She’s best friends with Joey Tremont.

But this year is different. Usually she gets a phone call or a letter in advance telling her to pack her stuff up because she’ll be spending the summer with the Tremonts. She finally hears from them but she and Joey haven’t spoken. Something is wrong with him. Her first big clue that something if off is when she gets off the bus and Mrs. Tremont isn’t there to pick her up. Maybe they changed their minds. Maybe they don’t want her there. Cassidy begins to have  a panic attack and decides to go into a grocery store to use their phone.

Mrs. Tremont forgot to pick her up because weird things are beginning to happen in the neighborhood. Ursula Chambers, the hermit/hoarder who lived in an old house down the street, has died under mysterious circumstances. There are bins upon bins of hoarded items in the driveway and people have been stopping by to root through the dead lady’s things and take them home.

That’s a bad thing. A very bad thing.

Ursula’s body goes missing. There are people who have seen her walking around town. They’ve reluctantly shared that they’ve also seen her in their houses. People who went through her things are being haunted. Or, as Cassidy starts to wonder, are they being warned? Does crazy Ursula Chambers want her precious things back? Or is it something else altogether? A few people who took Ursula’s things die in mysterious ways and their bodies disappear from the morgue. Last year Joey’s beloved dog died. And now he’s seen the dog and Ursula walking around.

The Tremonts live in a subdivision (I immediately thought of the movie Poltergeist and how all those houses looked exactly alike, except for, you know, the corpses popping up in the newly dug swimming pool and the fact that there was a portal to the other side in the little girl’s closet) and Ursula Chambers house was a hundred years old. Plenty of dark things in her basement bumping into things. Cassidy, Joey and a new friend know that the answers about the dead bodies disappearing, ghosts wandering by, and some nasty zombie-esque stuff are within Ursula’s old house and decide to sneak inside the ancient farmhouse to find out what’s going on. Bless children under the age of 13 that still have that streak of fearlessness in them. I would have stood on the lawn with a gas can and matches and yelled “Let it burn!” but I’m not very adventurous any more when it comes to finding zombies in basements.  Well….maybe I still have a bit of the old me around here somewhere, the one that says “Hold my beer. I’m going to do something really stupid.”

Don’t let the J Fiction spine label fool you. There were a couple of times that I was positive The Book of Bad Things wasn’t a kid’s book. And it’s not. It’s a book for everyone who likes to be so scared they have to leave a light on all night. That’s not me. Of course not.

Yeah, it was me.

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