Monday, July 27, 2015

ARC Review: Hoodoo by Ronald L. Smith

Title: Hoodoo
Author: Ronald L. Smith
Published: September 1, 2015 by Clarion (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
(Amazon / Goodreads)

Synopsis: Set amidst the red soil and sweltering heat of small town Alabama in the 1930s, HOODOO tells the story of twelve-year-old Hoodoo Hatcher, who is born into a family with a rich tradition of practicing folk magic, or Hoodoo, as most people call it. 

They use foot-track powder that can go up through your foot to make you sick, a black hen’s egg for getting rid of evil spirits, nutmeg seeds for good luck at gambling and all kinds of other things. But even though his name is Hoodoo, he can’t seem to cast a simple spell. 

When a mysterious man called the Stranger shows up in town—all wrapped in black like some kind of holy roller preacher—Hoodoo starts having dreams of a dead man rising from the grave. Even worse, he soon learns the Stranger is looking for a boy. Not just any boy. A boy named Hoodoo. 

Can he summon the magic to save his town and family?

**** I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This fact has not changed my opinion. ****

I don't read a lot of Middle Grade. Despite reading a bit of everything, and a few exceptions, I find that typically middle grade novels just don't have enough complexities for me. But I was immediately attracted to this book and it's synopsis. And while I did like the plot and world of this book, I never really connected with it completely.

One thing that I really liked about Hoodoo and the reason that I kept reading is the plot of it. This is a pretty quick but engaging Middle Grade read that would be perfect for the Halloween season. It's got an atmospheric world that was quite spooky at times. If I were to categorize the plot of this book as anything I would call it a mystery and that mystery was definitely engaging. There was a hunt for clues and some moments of real suspense. I really enjoyed the mystery. I thought I had it figured out but it kept me wondering from beginning to end. Fans of Middle Grade mysteries will enjoy this one as well.

But unfortunately one of the things that didn't really work for me was the characters. I am a plot-driven reader so I don't really need great characters to like a book, but here they just lacked the complexity that I usually enjoy. The main character of Hoodoo was likable enough and his struggle for the truth was something that I should have been on board for and I'm not sure why but I never totally connected. He and the rest of the secondary characters didn't really jump off the page for me. Well, all expect the antagonist. The Stranger is quite devious and gives Voldemort a run for his money at times. Usually a great antagonist helps me connect with the MC and it did a little but still something kept that from happening.

The thing that didn't work most for me was the world-building. Which is such an odd thing to say because  I really did enjoy the world a lot. The folk magic or hoodoo was complex and interesting and added a lot to the mystery of the book. The setting also was lush and unique and added a lot to the atmosphere and mystery of the books. But there was a little too much tell instead of show when it came to the creation of the world. And I mean the MC would literally tell you what something meant. That may have been one of the reasons I didn't fully connect with him. But it would also take me out of the world completely. I don't mind a "breaking the fourth wall" from time to time but it got a little frustrating. But this style of world-building might be okay for a younger audience however.

Despite a few things that didn't really work, on the whole was an engaging read that I think young readers of scary stories and/or mysteries will love. The world is atmospheric and spooky with a plot full of mystery.

I give Hoodoo by Robert L. Smith 7.5 out of 10 stars

Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Buy/Borrow. I am not the target audience for this book and that may have gotten in the way of my enjoyment, but a think young readers will devour this book. The world and plot is full of mystery and an atmosphere that would be perfect for the Halloween season.

Have you read Hoodoo? What did you think? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!


  1. Middle grade books really can be difficult to connect with so I totally get your frustration! This one does sound pretty interesting though and this is the first I've heard of it. It's too bad that the world building and characters weren't very good. :( I'd definitely suggest Serafina and the Black Cloak for a great middle grade book! It sounds similar to this one, but it was incredibly well done!! Great review though :D

    Tracy @ Cornerfolds

    1. Thanks for the recommendation. I've heard a bit about Seraphina and the Black Cloak and it does sound interesting. I have read a few good MGs recently but they can definitely be hit or miss for me.

  2. I'm with you on middle grade. I've read some lovely, clever ones (Graveyard Book, The Iron Trial), but most of the time they're kind of tell-y and not as complex as I'm looking for. But I do appreciate a good magically-oriented one. For some reason, those stick with me the most. Maybe they just read like fairy stories.

    As for breaking the fourth wall, Lemony Snicket used that to great effect in Series of Unfortunate Events. I think it depends, for me, on how it's done.

    Sarcasm & Lemons

    1. I've had The Iron Trial recommended to me a few times. Well, maybe they were both you, but either way thanks. I think the MG I like the most are more high fantasy style and actually a few contemps because they're good coming-of-age stories and don't have romance which you know I don't always love.

      I typically like the breaking the fourth wall thing but I agree, it depends on how it is done. I think I prefer it when it comes to the plot development not the world building.