Heck : Where the Bad Kids Go (Circles of Heck Series #1)

Heck : Where the Bad Kids Go (Circles of Heck Series #1)

4.0 84
by Dale E. Basye, Bob Dob

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WHEN MILTON AND Marlo Fauster die in a marshmallow bear explosion, they get sent straight to Heck, an otherworldly reform school. Milton can understand why his kleptomaniac sister is here, but Milton is—or was—a model citizen. Has a mistake been made? Not according to Bea “Elsa” Bubb, the Principal of Darkness. She doesn’t makeSee more details below

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WHEN MILTON AND Marlo Fauster die in a marshmallow bear explosion, they get sent straight to Heck, an otherworldly reform school. Milton can understand why his kleptomaniac sister is here, but Milton is—or was—a model citizen. Has a mistake been made? Not according to Bea “Elsa” Bubb, the Principal of Darkness. She doesn’t make mistakes. She personally sees to it that Heck—whether it be home-ec class with Lizzie Borden, ethics with Richard Nixon, or gym with Blackbeard the Pirate—is especially, well, heckish for the Fausters. Will Milton and Marlo find a way to escape? Or are they stuck here for all eternity, or until they turn 18, whichever comes first?

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

In his uproarious send-up of all things purgatorial, debut novelist Basye gives readers a new lease on afterlifes. Milton, a blameless 11-year-old bookworm, and his "blue-haired, thirteen-going-on-thirty-year-old" sister, Marlo, are at the Mall of Generica (in Generica, Kans.), when they meet their demise in a ludicrous accident (Milton's nemesis plants a stick of dynamite in a 20-foot-tall statue made from marshmallow: "Smoke, noise, and burning marshmallow fused together to create a sickeningly sweet moment, one that was both ridiculously tragic and tragically ridiculous"). Unfortunately, Marlo has been shoplifting and stashed her goods in Milton's gear, so both get sent to Heck-a hell for the under-18 demographic. Never mind that Milton is technically innocent: "The devil's in the details," snaps Heck's principal, Bea "Elsa" Bubb. After a series of ill-fated yet deliciously documented attempts to escape, one sibling succeeds in returning from the Underworld, but the finale is almost beside the point. The author's umpteen clever allusions-characters' eternal fates are decided by standardized "Soul Aptitude Tests"; Mr. R. Nixon teaches ethics to evildoers in room 1972-make this book truly sparkle. Ages 9-12. (July)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.\
Children's Literature - Jamaica Johnson Conner
Meet Milton Fauster, an intelligent and for the most part innocent young man who finds himself in terrible circumstances, thanks to his outwardly greedy, rebellious, and conniving older sister Marlo. After a bizarre series of events at the Grizzly Mall—the Mall of Generica involving shoplifting, running from security guards, and an explosion caused by a bully named Damian—Milton and Marlo die and find themselves in Heck, the "...h-e-double-hockey-sticks for children...where the souls of the darned toil for all eternity—or until they turn eighteen, whichever comes first." Convinced that he has been misplaced, Milton challenges the Principal of Darkness and administrator of Heck, Bea "Elsa" Bubb, who determines to make things extra difficult for Milton in this hellacious limbo. As Milton and Marlo launch many elaborate escape attempts and Bea "Elsa" Bubb attempts to thwart their endeavors, they grow closer as brother and sister. Cultural allusions and familiar characters, such as Lizzie Borden, President Nixon, and Maria von Trapp, add to the paradoxically ridiculous and clever humor of this piece. Well-read and culturally aware young adults will benefit from the challenging vocabulary as they read about Milton, a character determined to right the wrongs imposed upon him despite seemingly impossible circumstances. Reviewer: Jamaica Johnson Conner\
School Library Journal

Gr 6-8

Quintessential good-kid Milton Fauster knows all about his sister Marlo's life of petty crime. So, when they are both killed in a freak marshmallow explosion, he isn't surprised that she doesn't qualify for Heaven, but he's shocked to find that he isn't going there either. They end up in Heck, an unearthly reform school that isn't quite Hell, but certainly not a place anyone would want to stay in "for all eternity-or until they turn 18, whichever comes first." Principal Bea "Elsa" Bubb figures that there is something irregular about Milton's soul contract and keeps a close eye on him. Milton, meanwhile, plans to escape. During a dreary class, he meets Virgil, who has a map of the Nine Circles of Heck. Unfortunately, the only way out is through the sewer pipes, literally "down the toilet." The torments of the darned are described in vivid and often grotesque detail. Errant toddlers nap in gingerbread coffins while Boogeypeople read them Edgar Allan Poe. Milton and company make two graphically described voyages through the underworld plumbing. There are numerous classical and historical allusions, many of which will sail over the heads of the intended audience. ("I have an ax to grind with you," snarls home-economics teacher Lizzie Borden, after giving the celery 40 whacks.) In the end, the clever, if somewhat disturbing premise is overwhelmed by slow pacing and relentless descriptions of garbage, sewage, and other heckishly unpleasant things.-Elaine E. Knight, Lincoln Elementary Schools, IL

Kirkus Reviews
When a 20-foot-tall marshmallow bear explodes at the Mall of Generica in Kansas, young Marlo and Milton are killed and sent to Heck, where "the souls of the darned toil for all eternity-or until they turn eighteen, whichever comes first." With other tortures, there's school in Heck: home economics taught by Lizzie Borden, ethics by Richard Nixon and biology by Typhoid Mary, whom they dissect while she's still conscious. And what would a journey to the netherworld be without a new friend named Virgil? Together, the threesome never abandons hope and never feels up the River Styx without a paddle, as they seek escape from this tedious and phantasmagoric world. Basye lays on thick with the wordplay and classical allusions, and readers may at times feel in Limbo along with Milton and Virgil. Humorous chapter titles, sly banter between characters and a richly imagined world ought to make this a hit for the intended audience. In tribute to old Blackbeard, who puts the "scurvy dogs" to work in one scene, rate this "Arrrrrgh." (Fantasy. 9-12)\
From the Publisher
Starred Review, Publishers Weekly, June 30, 2008:
"The author's umpteen clever allusions...make this book truly sparkle."

Review, The Wall Street Journal, July 26-27, 2008:
"Parents and readers . . . are in for a treat with Dale E. Basye's very funny debut novel."

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Product Details

Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
Circles of Heck Series , #1
Sold by:
Random House
Sales rank:
File size:
3 MB
Age Range:
9 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

In Generica, Kansas, Christmas wasn’t something you felt in the chill of the winter air or the warmth of a generous smile. It was announced by the sixteen-foot tower of crystal angels at Grizzly Mall—the Mall of Generica.

And this year was no different—at first. Exhausted shoppers filed by, momentarily entranced by the shimmering, heart-faced, bare-bottomed cupids. That is, until Marlo Fauster smashed them to bits with the oar she’d stolen from Spoiled Sports Sporting Goods.

“Let’s go!” shrieked Marlo, a blue-haired, thirteen-going-on-thirty-year-old girl, to her gangly younger brother, Milton. Shards of shining wings and harps rained down around them.

The two children bounded across the showroom floor, Marlo running with a look of fierce determination and Milton running out of pure fear. Unbeknownst to both of them, they were also running out of time.

Milton had spent most of his young life avoiding trouble: staring at his shoes, shuffling along unnoticed, ducking away from tense—or even remotely interesting— situations for fear of their potentially dangerous potential. He only felt truly safe when tucked between the covers of a book, experiencing life secondhand.

Marlo, however, was a different story.

Too far was where Marlo lived. If something didn’t involve petty (and not-so-petty) crime, it just wasn’t worth doing.

Maybe it was all just a cry for attention. Unfortunately, Marlo’s latest acts of thievery and vandalism were drawing far too much attention. At least that’s how Milton saw it through his thick, Coke-bottle glasses as his sister dragged him toward his untimely demise.

They ran past stunned shoppers into the mall concourse, Marlo waving her oar as if rowing furiously through a human sea. Milton fought to keep up.

“That should buy us some time from security!” Marlo squealed with manic glee. It was at times like this, Milton thought, that he was in the presence of—and grudgingly related to—a new kind of evil.

“And you should have bought that stupid oar!” Milton replied, panting.

“Why would I buy an oar?” she asked, giving Milton’s arm a sadistic twist. “We live in Kansas, short bus.”

The two siblings darted around a corner and burst into the Grizzly Mall food court.

“Then why . . . ?” Milton stammered in front of Tongue Thaied.

“For the sport of it,” Marlo said with pride. “If I pull this off—the most conspicuous holiday heist in Grizzly Mall history—I’ll be a modern-day Kleptopatra.” She paused dramatically, her dark eyes twinkling with reflected Christmas lights. “The stuff of shoplifting legend. And all that expensive makeup is just icing on the cake.”

Milton stared at the pink Goodbye Puppy bag underneath his arm as he trotted onward.

“So all this makeup . . . you didn’t need me to just hold it for you back at the cosmetics counter . . . I . . . I just stole . . . lip gloss?”

“And Suburban Blight cheek bronzer with free-radical scavengers and lipid-rich amino moisturizers,” Marlo said while descending an ascending escalator. She grinned. “Welcome to the life, my gullible little apprentice. You are but putty in my skillful hands.”

Behind them, a full-bodied mall security guard lumbered in hot pursuit. Another chunky-style defender of mall law soon joined him, slurping down a smoothie.

Milton looked behind him. Despite their weight being nearly double their IQ, the guards were closing in.

“I can’t believe you tricked me into stealing for you!” Milton barked in his squeaky, just-turned-eleven voice.

Marlo snickered. The fact that she could run clad in several layers of black thrift-store dresses, holding an eight-foot oar, and still manage to maintain a superior attitude was impressive.

“You might get all the A’s in the family, but I certainly aced you,” she snorted, her black lips catching on a fang.

Milton and Marlo rushed into the mall’s massive atrium, joining a crowd gathered around a white, globby sculpture. A fierce marshmallow bear, frozen in mid-attack, loomed over the horde of gawking Genericans. Below the twenty-foot-tall sugary bruin was a banner declaring “Welcome to Grizzly Mall: Home of the State’s Second-Largest Bear-Themed Marshmallow Statue!”

Marlo’s oar sliced through the mass of shoppers like a thin, wooden shark fin.

“Try to blend,” she whispered to her trembling brother.

Milton squished the pink bag of lipstick, fruit-scented creams, and vials of pricey gosh-knows-whats under his armpit. Despite the heat radiating from the mob, Milton shivered. Something—or someone—was near, something so cold that it robbed the heat from his very bones. He squinted through his thick glasses and noticed a dark smudge. He wiped his lenses, but the stubborn smudge was still there, hovering on the edge of the crowd that filled the atrium. The dark smudge was a boy.

A hulking boy. A cruel boy. A boy all too familiar to Milton. A boy who, in many ways, resembled a smudge. A boy whose eyes were dull, dark, wicked slits. A boy whose skin was like puffy, freckled dough that gave off a sickly sweet smell like rotting fruit. A boy named Damian.

Damian sneered at Milton and ran his grubby finger across his throat as he lurched from the mall commons into the heart of the mall. Milton gulped and shut his eyes. On the insides of his eyelids, however, he replayed scenes of Damian’s notorious cruelty, all of which—unfortunately—starred Milton.

From the Hardcover edition.

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What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
Starred Review, Publishers Weekly, June 30, 2008:
"The author's umpteen clever allusions...make this book truly sparkle."

Review, The Wall Street Journal, July 26-27, 2008:
"Parents and readers . . . are in for a treat with Dale E. Basye's very funny debut novel."

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