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Published:December 19th, 2011 19:49 EST
Heaven Looks a Lot Like the Mall Book Review

Heaven Looks a Lot Like the Mall Book Review

By Tony Graff

The title of this novel is what caught my attention. Being a former teenager, and a recovering mall rat, it didn`t take much for me to want to read this book. So, I hit up a library and got a copy.

The cover art is simple, but fitting. The imagery it provokes is great.    

Inside the covers we are entreated to an unedited view of life through a high school girl who feels like she doesn`t fit in, and has a slew of experiences and perceptions to back it up. Tessa is in gym class playing dodgeball when she catches a ball with the side of her head. This is the near death experience that triggers her little tour of heaven.

This is where the book gets odd. I like the way Tessa explains things, and her perspective feels very real, but her whole jaunt through heaven is like a teenaged version of A Christmas Carol without Christmas. She meets only one other person in heaven, a kid who remains unnamed and makes sporadic appearances in both the real life hospital room (where she discovers she`s not dead, but having a near-death experience), and in Heaven/Mall, where he kind of acts like a guide, only all he does is show her a bag filled with random stuff through her life. He was about as useful as Virgil was in the video game Dante`s Inferno, where players agreed he could have been replaced by a street sign. All we know about him is he might be dead or might not, and he has a drill bit stuck in his head.

 The bag with random stuff is explained through most of the book. Each chapter depicts the incident that an item in the bag triggered. I`m pretty sure the intent was to bring her remorse and perspective about her life. What I saw was the start of kleptomania. The majority of the items in her bag she stole or took from people and stores in the mall where she spends most of her time.

In the end, she wakes up from a coma, surrounded by her family who has been worried sick. Even her snotty older brother is in tears. We get one last look at the unnamed guide, who now has the drill bit removed from his head, and then the moral comes in.

While I enjoyed the majority of the story, the ending ruined it for me. What started out as an optimistic, teenaged Ellen Hopkins finished sounding like a sermon trying not to be a sermon.

This book gets three out of five. It`s worth checking out from the library.

Written by: Wendy Mass

Genre: Tween/Teen

Published: 2008 reprint

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers