Heaven Looks a Lot Like the Mall by Wendy Mass features Tessa Reynolds, an average sixteen-year-old high school junior. She is not particularly popular, but neither is she a complete loner. She is not necessarily nice, but neither is she a bully. Her current claim to fame is an incident that took place when she was nine and “lifted her shirt for the neighborhood boys for fifty cents and a Gobstopper.” Somewhere in the middle, Tessa is trying to find out where she fits in and how to answer the ephemeral college essay question, “Who am I?” Help with answering that question appears in an unlikely way when Tessa is struck on the head with a dodge ball during gym class and finds herself in Heaven, which looks like her own mall. Existing in a medically induced coma, Tessa is met by Nail Boy (actually, he has a drill bit in his head) and escorted to the mall office lost and found office. She is given a seemingly hodgepodge box of her personal belongings, however each item harkens back to a significant episode of her young life. Examining these items becomes her journey helping to decide, continue with her life or go to Heaven. Told in verse, this novel takes a refreshing look at teenage life where shades of grey are more prevalent than black and white. Mass presents Tessa as a flawed heroine who learns from her past and embraces her future.
The title and cover (the link to Mass’s web site shows a book cover) prompted me to pick up this particular offering. Not a big fan of verse, this book is well crafted and after a chapter or two I could not imagine it being presented in any other format. I will be interested to see what kind of reviews this book receives, but it would make a nice addition to the library juvenile collection. As the jacket suggests, it is a book “in the tradition of A Christmas Carol.” However, the genuine humor and reality of character reminded me more of Bill Murray in Scrooge.
Tags: Wendy Mass, Heaven Looks a Lot Like the Mall, Juvenile fiction, YA fiction