REVIEW: The Bad Present – James Mendenhall * * * * *

The Bad Present - James Mendenhall

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Book Description from Amazon

The boy kicked himself. When his dad handed him the small wooden box on Christmas morning, the instructions were quite clear. “Open the box before you go to sleep tonight.” Couldn’t be easier. But how was the boy to know his dad actually meant it? Granted, his dad said “it may be the most important thing you will ever do in your entire life,” but his Mom said the same thing about algebra, and everyone knew that wasn’t true. His father should have known better. Twelve-year-old boys don’t listen. So of course the boy forgot and now, for some reason he can’t understand, his life has taken a downward spiral that will only end when he can figure out the clues to how the box works.

The Bad Present is a touching, riotously funny mystery story, chronicling a boy’s desperate quest to understand the box, his life, and the world around him.



I originally bought this book to read with my young daughter, but I ended up enjoying it so much I continued reading long after she went to sleep. The story in a nutshell is about a boy who receives a box for Christmas. This box, however, is not an ordinary gift—it brings about bad luck if it’s not opened when it’s supposed to be opened. Of course, our young hero doesn’t open it as he is meant to, and things start going from bad to worse. He has to find a way to make things right again.

“So now I had my mission. Find the pages. Save the world. Get the girl. Simple. But first I had to eat dinner and change into my pajamas.”

What I liked about the book

I LOVED the humour! Sometimes it was subtle, causing me to smile from ear to ear, other times it was laugh-out-loud funny.

“Hmm,” my dad said, his brow furrowed. “That’s true. Wonder why they didn’t think of that when they wrote the rules.”

“Who’s they?” I asked.

He pointed at the ceiling. My parents’ bedroom was right above the study.

“Mom?” I said in surprise. “Mom made up the rules?”

He gave me a funny look. “No, not Mom. You know . . .” He gestured again to the ceiling.

“You mean . . . higher than Mom?”

“Yes,” he said. “Of course.”

I whistled in amazement. Grandma.

I also loved that the story was written in the voice of our young hero, expressing events as experienced by a young boy bulldozing toward puberty. Consider this description of the girl of his dreams:

She was the most unbelievable, funny, smart girl in the history of history. She had blue-green eyes that were the color of fresh blueberries. Her hair was black as electrical tape.

The story progressed at a good pace and I found myself struggling to put the book down. ‘Just one more chapter’ became my motto each night until the book was finished.

What I didn’t enjoy that much

It took me a while to finish this review but I cannot remember anything that niggled me in this book.

Final thoughts

Author, James Mendendall, did an awesome job with bringing this story to life. I enjoyed his writing style and will most certainly keep my eyes open for more of his work.



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