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 make…  See more details below


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."

Customer Reviews

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Heck 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 83 reviews.
From-the-Qwill-Pen More than 1 year ago
Heck is one of the best and funniest books I have ever read! I loved all the great puns about the teachers and their classes, but some of them are hard to understand. I HIGHLY, HIGHLY, HIGHLY, recommend this book trilogy. Great read for anyone who liked The series of Unfortunate Events! I loved these books and I am a 12 year old girl who reads ALOT!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I liked it alot, but I felt like it repeated itself alot. The author didn't express the characters personalities as much as I had hoped. He did very well on the details about the scenery, but not very well in general. I love the story plot but i don't think I will be reading the next book.
Lawral More than 1 year ago
This is a hilarious take on the afterlife, with a lot of gross-out humor (they crawl through sewers that service both "the surface," where the living poop, and all the toilets in Heck). I think that middle grade readers, or even some younger readers who really like potty humor, will enjoy the story and the adventure as Milton, Marlo, and their friend Virgil try to break out of Heck. There is a lot that is outrageous through the whole thing such as preschoolers addicted to phonics, demons dressed up as other demons (who happen to look like the thumb-thumbs from Spy Kids in my head), and an accidental trip to adult purgatory: a never ending traffic jam. But there is also a lot that is normal like horrendous cafeteria food, an overbearing gym teacher, and a big bad (human) bully, reminding Milton, Marlo, Virgil, and the reader that all of this is happening to regular kids. My main problem with Heck is that I don't think the average middle grade reader, the reader this book was written for, will get a lot of the jokes that I thought were really really funny. Nixon teaches the boys ethics class. Lizzie Borden teaches girls' anatomy/biology. The headmistress is named Bea "Elsa" Bubb and actually says, "You mess with a demon, you get the horns," when she thinks she's discovered the escape plans (213). I read a lot of things and watched a lot of stuff that contained jokes and/or innuendos that flew right over my head when I was a kid, and I still enjoyed them. But so much of this book depends on jokes that not every 9yr old will have the background knowledge to understand, that I wonder how it is actually received by its intended audience. I, not remotely the intended audience, thought it was really funny. I won't be rushing out to buy the second book in hardback, but I'll probably give it a look when it shows up in paperback. There are nine circles of Heck mentioned (Limbo, Rapacia, Blimpo, Fibble, Snivel, Precocia, Lipptor, Sadia, and Dupli-city). Since the second book is Rapacia: The Second Circle of Heck I can only infer that the boarding school the first book was set in was Limbo, and there will be nine books total if Basye gets his following and his way. It'll be interesting to see how many of his readers make it through all nine before they outgrow the humor and/or if they'll stick with it because they start to get the cultural references and jokes.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Such a criller. Comedy+ Thriller = Criller. Imagine, basically, having a sister that is a juvinile delinquent you being a straight A+ student and you getting punished for it by being sent to the kid version of h-e-double hockey sticks because your sister tricked you into stealing! What a book! I totally recomend for 9-12 year olds!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I would reccomend to anyone of any age! Fantastic!
Royceshedd More than 1 year ago
Definatly different than other books I've read. Interesting how the author wrote a book about 2kids going to.well..not quite hell. I found it a bit long in the tooth, yet I like the concept itself. The charters and the spins and puns were very entertaning. I think it would stand well as a book to read a "troubeling" kid. Who knows might make them think twice...if you can get them to sit and listen.
alexia561 More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed following Milton and his older sister Marlo's adventures as they do their best to escape Limbo before being permanently assigned to one of the deeper circles. Turns out that there are 9 circles in Heck: Limbo, Rapacia, Blimpo, Fibble, Snivel, Precocia, Lipptor, Sadia, and Dupli-city. Don't know if that means that there will be 9 books in the series, but it should be fun! This book is supposed to be geared for the 9-12 age group, but I don't know if they will get some of the pop culture references. For instance, I got a kick out of Richard Nixon teaching an ethics class, but does that age group even know who Richard Nixon is? Or Lizzie Borden for that matter? And I'd be shocked if they had any idea who Anubis was! FYI, he was the Egyptian god of the underworld who had the head of a jackal. This was a fun, quick read, but I don't know that I would give a copy to my 8 year old niece. Parts of the book were cute and funny, but other bits seemed to be aiming for disgusting. For instance, did we really need such graphic details of Milton & company crawling through the sewers? I'd recommend it for adults who enjoy YA fiction, and maybe read it with your child in order to explain certain things. But in the end, I really liked the marshmellow bear explosion! *L*
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good book it is awesone for an 11 year old
TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
When Milton and Marlo Fauster die in a marshmallow bear explosion, they are sent not to Heaven or Hell, but instead to Heck, an otherworldly reform school for "bad kids." There, they must toil until they turn eighteen, at which point their souls will be reevaluated and sent on. Though Marlo, a teenager with an unfortunate case of kleptomania, clearly belongs in Heck, the siblings are at a loss to understand why Milton is there as well - he has always been a model citizen.

Could there possibly have been a mistake?

The authorities claim otherwise, and so Milton and Marlo are forced to endure such classes as ethics with Robert Nixon and gym with Blackbeard the pirate as they plot their way out of Heck. But will these intrepid siblings discover a way to escape, or will they be forced to stay in this thoroughly heckish place forever?

HECK: WHERE THE BAD KIDS GO is a book that will appeal to everyone still a child at heart. The narration flows smoothly with a thoroughly engaging voice, and the landscape of Heck is funny and inventive; it is a world where children are forced to eat their way out of rooms as punishment, where candy can glue mouths shut, and where good dreams are strictly prohibited.

Dale E. Basye takes the reader on a nonstop adventure that is sometimes touching, sometimes disgusting in the best of gleeful ways, and at all times captivatingly entertaining.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I got this book at my local library and beleive me it's amazing!!!!!!!!!!!! I am so gonna buy it!! Wait this is spossed to bve a reveiw so here goes... This story i would reccomend for ages 6-13 possibly older! This is about a trouble making sister and an innocent little brother.or so he thinks... This is a kids version of the original book and so this is actually similar to the original in some ways. This story is bound to keep u on the edge of ur seats or beds or wherever u r reading this book. I never wanted to put ths book down!! It's a real page turner. Heck is a book that has a bad beginning and one of the sadest ending i have ever read. U cme to luv the charecters and the descriptions of everything almost make u think u r actually there! I think that if u like a mixture of sad, hopeful, suprise, and a little smidge if mystery than this is definitly the book for u! Thx so much for reading even thouh it was a bit long... Plz click yes or reply if this waas helpfull at all. -A
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It was a little confusing at first but I got the consept towrds the middle. I was only 9 when I read this but I sudgest ages10-12. The plot was ok but the ending was good. All in all it was a pretty good book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is an intelligent and culturally literate tour de force, a very well written novel by a writer who's obviously in love with his craft. That being said, the book is quite long for the 9-12 year old age group. Furthermore, the cultural references will be almost completely lost on this group-- Beelzebub, Richard Nixon, Lizzie Borden, for example. And references to one of the protagonist's acne and underdeveloped breast size? Those aren't primary concerns for third-to-fifth graders. It's marketed for the wrong age group, quite frankly. Middle-schoolers might love it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
In this story two kids get themselves in trouble by stealing. When they pased away, the went straight to heck, and they learn that they wont b realeased until they turn 18. Which could turn into eternity. Will their plans be good enough to escape or will they be stuck there FOREVER... read this awesome begining to this amazing story
UteReader More than 1 year ago
Dale Basye must have been off his rocker when he came up with a idea to write a book about a teenage brother and sister who die and are sent to Heck. This book just caught my eye well I was at the store one day and I had to read it. (Though I may not be a teen anymore I'd like to see where I would have ended up had I ended during that time in my life) Milton and Marlo's journey to the first cirlce of Heck, and attemps to escape as well turned out to be a rather good read. Basye's use of comic releif help make this a great book rather then a weird read. His use as Richard Nixon as the Ethics teacher in Heck, was wonderful. This is a start of a series with the next book due out the end of July of this year, so don't plan on the book coming to a perfect ending, as there are 9 circles of Heck, and we just deal with the first one here. I look forward to following Milton and Marlo's joureny through this series.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This story starts out so promising with clever word play and sibling rivalry, and yet manages to drag it's way through 'heck' with repetitive potty humor, too many loose ends even for the first of a series for kids to tolerate, and an uncomprehensible epilogue.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Loved it! It was very good, and I loved the play on words and the author's sense of humor. A few Parts were slow, but all in all it was a pleasing read and worth the little time it took to finish. Recommend it, definitely.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
You guys r so gross just stop ok
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
'That's nastey no'
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I just read the first couple pges and i fell in i would reccomend this book for anyone looking for a good suspensful book with action d adventure!!! Good read!!!
Tchrandstdnt More than 1 year ago
I read this book with my students last school year. I teach middle school readers who do not like to read. Most of them are two or more years behind in their reading levels. They are really loved this book and wanted to read the entire series. Some parents might not appreciate the continual references to "Heck" but it is done in good taste. There are puns galore, which I absolutely loved and a great deal of figurative language. The conflict of the teen characters seems authentic. I thoroughly enjoyed it. The only down side is that there were stretches that went overboard with description and lacked action. The kids would get a little bored during those moments so just prepare your teen reader that there are dry moments, but by the end they will be glad they read it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is the best.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Iz readz itz andz itz goodz
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Soo coooooooolll : )
Anonymous More than 1 year ago