Sep 17, 2022

Review--Hocus Pocus & The All-New Sequel by A.W. Jantha


Hocus Pocus is beloved by Halloween enthusiasts all over the world. Diving once more into the world of witches, this electrifying two-part young adult novel, released on the twenty-fifth anniversary of the 1993 film, marks a new era of Hocus Pocus. Fans will be spellbound by a fresh retelling of the original film, followed by the all-new sequel that continues the story with the next generation of Salem teens.

Shortly after moving from California to Salem, Massachusetts, Max Dennison finds himself in hot water when he accidentally releases a coven of witches, the Sanderson sisters, from the afterlife. Max, his sister, and his new friends (human and otherwise) must find a way to stop the witches from carrying out their evil plan and remaining on earth to torment Salem for all eternity.

Twenty-five years later, Max and Allison's seventeen-year-old daughter, Poppy, finds herself face-to-face with the Sanderson sisters in all their sinister glory. When Halloween celebrations don't quite go as planned, it's a race against time as Poppy and her friends fight to save her family and all of Salem from the witches' latest death-defying scheme.


What with the sequel coming out this year, I thought it was finally time I cracked open Hocus Pocus & The All-New Sequel by A.W. Jantha...just for comparison's sake. I mean after the teaser trailer was finally revealed and I read what the book sequel was about, I was quick to learn they were two different stories. But I thought, why not? It's been on my TBR since 2018! And while it was a cute story, I guess I was just expecting more.

Perhaps my expectations were raised a bit after seeing the previews for the sequel. What I will admit that this book sequel had going was including the original characters of the original movie! I mean, you can't have a sequel without the least in a cameo appearance. Whether that will happen with the movie is likely being kept under wraps. Time will tell I guess.

So the book is divided into two, the first part being a retelling of the movie we all know and love! It's a pretty straightforward film to book adaptation. There were a few "added" features, occasionally we got Max's point of was a sort of third person omniscient king of perspective. So we got Max's thoughts on Allison and why he was prompting this great idea to go to the Sanderson's house on Halloween night.

The dedicated fan will notice bits of dialogue that were cut while others stayed. But all in all, it was a decent rendition of the movie playing out in the written word. Although, even when rewatching the movie I can never figure out how the Sanderson sisters don't know what Halloween is, but know the concept of being pulled over by a police officer and needing to seeing a driver's license! But that's what happens when you've seen a movie 1,001 times and really start to nit-pick at things! Lol.

Now as for the sequel, which is where the bulk of the pages lied, that is a whole new story! Max and Allison married and had a daughter they named Poppy. Poppy grew up learning her parents' story about what they all went through and how they in some roundabout way became a little "anti-Halloween." They don't outright ban the holiday and Poppy grew up trick-or-treating like any kid, but let's just say things were very tamed for Poppy. Although, side note, I totally loved seeing Poppy looking at a picture of her parents and aunt dressed as Peter Pan, Wendy, and Tinker Bell!

Poppy has never really been a fan of Halloween but her parents were hosting a big Halloween party that her whole school practically was going to attend and Poppy's crush, Isabella was coming and when Isabella suggests they use a spirit board, Poppy's mom was against it, but in hopes of impressing Isabella Poppy suggest going to the old Sanderson museum that her parents owned, but left closed and vacant. You might ask why that place was still standing after what they went through and if they own it, why not torch it? Well, they tried, but historical societies basically kept them from achieving that task!

So Poppy, her best friend Travis, and Isabella go to the old Sanderson museum and when they actually make contact with a spirit, things go horribly, horribly wrong and the Sanderson sisters are brought back from the dead...again! I will admit, the way the author goes about bringing them back without the Black Flame Candle was pretty ingenious and I'm anxious to see what the movie will do with this thread of storyline as well. Although, with this different spell that brings back the troublesome trio, three other souls must take their place in Hell. You can guess which three people are sent to Hell in their stead; Max, Allison, and Aunt Dani who finally made an appearance just to disappear.

Now it's up to Poppy and her friends to find a way to send the witches back and bring her family back. Except, this time, the witches are a little more prepared, having duked it out in the twentieth century, how will the twenty-first being any different? The answer: cell phones.

What I did really enjoy about this sequel was how we got to see so many familiar faces. I bet you never thought you'd see Jay again, but you do! He's the principal of Poppy's high school and we actually get a pretty good insight to his character. I kind of felt for him in that way...but at the same time he was still a jerk to Max. 

One issue I did have was that this sequel did seem to move at a slower pace. I mean, I think it was about 100 pages before the witches came back and seriously, we know it's going to happen, so I wish things didn't have to be dragged out for as long as they did! I wanted to see the Sandersons again and all their witchy glory! But alas, it took some time.

There were also the occasional moments where things just dragged. I don't know how to explain it, but it felt like just dragging through the sludge trying to get to the next point. Things were still interesting on occasion, but then they go right back the sludge hole. There was a point where Mary broke out into song and I was like...really? Sure, reading the part where the Sandersons sing "I Put a Spell on You" was great fun, but a totally new song that we don't even know the beat to? Really, it sounded like a sappy ballad. But whatever.

My next gripe came with the end. It was just over. I mean last time we watched the sisters explode into dust. This time, we get nothing. I'm not considering this a spoiler, because it's Disney, you know it's going to end happily and Poppy gets her family back. But seriously, one moment the witches are there and the next Poppy is looking at her family again and I was like what??!! Where did they go? Back to Hell obviously, but I mean come on! Give me some sort of scream or something!

Things ended happily yes, but then there was this bizarre epilogue. One that wasn't making much sense, but did prove interesting. It finally led to one character you were asking yourself the entire time...where is REDACTED?! But then it's just over! Seriously! This was the worst sort of cliffhanger. Because it was honestly pretty intriguing and I had so many questions over the course of 4 pages. And then it was over. That drove me a little bonkers...maybe more than a little!

So all in wasn't a bad book it was just kind of meh? I enjoyed seeing the Sandersons again. They remained true to their characters that we all know and love. While bits of the sequel were a little hokey, I guess you could say it relates back to its 90s predecessor where there were some extra cheesy moments as well! Definitely a book all Hocus Pocus fans will want to check out just for the memorabilia factor and an interesting take on a sequel.

Overall Rating 3.5/5 stars

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