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Heck: Where the Bad Kids Go

January 11, 2011

Heck: Where the Bad Kids Go

By Dale E. Basye

Published 2008, part one of a series called “Circles of Heck”


Milton and Marlo are a brother and sister who have died in a fluke mall marshmallow bear accident after which they are sent to Heck, a place where “bad” kids go to await judgment.  While Marlo is proud of her devilish pranks, Milton is an innocent straight-A student who believes he was sent to Heck by mistake.  Now the two kids try to find a way out of Heck and the evil clutches of its director, Bea “Elsa” Bubb.



This is a case of the wrong book at the wrong time.  It happens.  Though I’m not sure there would ever be a right time. I should not have read this after reading such masterpieces as The Book Thief and The Hunger Games trilogy.  Those books involve kids who die as well, but the deaths and the events leading up to them are, obviously, extremely powerful, moving, and tragic.  The deaths of the kids in Heck, however, are treated as a humorous accident the occurs when they are in the middle of running away from mall security guards after being caught stealing and destroying property.  The children are more disappointed with the odors and disgusting food options in the netherworld than they are by the fact that they are dead.  After being so distraught by the injustice and cruelty done to children in the Hunger Games books and, I thought Heck might provide a light, humorous book that was a clever play on Paradise Lost or Pilgrim’s Progress.  No.  Heck is a huge disappointment.  I wanted to laugh and I know the author wanted me to laugh, too.  But try as I might, I just couldn’t.  The book is filled with puns and wordplay which are almost funny but are mostly just dumb and old.  Here’s some of what I’m talking about:

  • They live in “Generica, Kansas”
  • Milton wears “coke-bottle glasses”
  • Stores in the mall: “Spoiled Sports Sporting Goods,” “Toung-Thaied,”
  • “Goodbye Puppy” makeup bag
  • “Olympic-sized kiddie pool”
  • “Upchucky Cheese restaurant”
  • A lizard wearing ray-bans taps on a microphone and says “hello? Is this thing on?”
  • “abracadaver”
  • “you mess with a  demon, you get the horns”
  • A teacher who died while trying to invent new sodas with names like: Nurse Pepper, Mountain Don’t, and Six Down

It’s not that I don’t get these jokes; it’s that I already heard them, or variations of them.  There are only so many times you can reword well-known phrases and still be funny.  This happens a lot, actually, not just in books.  And I’d like to use this opportunity to say it’s never amusing to use other people’s phrases, even if you twist them or try to make them ironic.  Here’s an example of one particularly annoying phrase that is reworked repeatedly.  We are all familiar with the Milk ad campaign: “got Milk?” For some reason, people still think it’s funny to reuse that phrase even though the ad campaign is Ten Years Old.  I’ve seen billboards that say “got Jesus?”  There are ads for cleaning services that say “got Mildew?” Please, please, think before you re-use a phrase in an attempt to be witty.  It’s not clever; it’s definitely not funny, it’s totally unoriginal, and it borders on plagiarism.

Anyway, if these kinds of things are funny to you, you will love this book.  If you’re looking for more original humor, try Louis Sachar, Roald Dahl, or Richard Peck.  These writers offer humor with humanity; you will laugh and think and feel something.  I didn’t do any of those things reading Heck.


I recommend this book for 8 year old boys who think farts and snot are funny.

Rating: 1 boot.

From → Book Treks

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