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

3.40  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,625 Ratings  ·  376 Reviews
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 ...more
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published July 22nd 2008 by Random House Books for Young Readers (first published January 1st 2008)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Jan 14, 2008 Dale rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for:
I had a lot of fun writing this book. It was very cathartic. I read the Advanced Reader Copy while I was immersed in the second book, and I was surprised that I still enjoyed it. Sure, there are things I would change now, but this experience—writing my first book—made me realize that one could very well spend their life writing and rewriting one book. Sometimes you just have to let it go. Actually, make that, all of the time.

What I like best about Heck (and what my spanking new agent had to say
Dec 03, 2008 Swankivy rated it did not like it
Seriously, I thought the best thing about this book was its cover. :(

The main characters: Best thing about them was the realism with regards to the sibling relationship. Everything else was flat; the characters were stereotypes: There's Marlo, the badass goth girl who steals for no reason (but seems to care a lot about fashion and cosmetics in a much more traditional way), and Milton, who wears thick glasses, is a germophobe, is scared of everything, and doesn't actually belong in Heck (oh, and
Jan 21, 2014 Melki rated it liked it
What happens if you're too horrid for Heaven but not quite bad enough for Hell?

Welcome to Heck, a limboland of wait and see, where recently deceased youngsters can learn and hopefully ascend, or wind up in H - E - double-hockey sticks with the big, red dude.

After succumbing to injuries sustained in a bizarre exploding-marshmallow incident, Marlo and Milton are sent to Heck. Here, they are given the opportunity to mend their "evil" ways and join Mother Teresa in Sixth Heaven (the buffet there is
Dec 08, 2008 Jennifer rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: no one
Shelves: children-fantasy
Grades 5-7
When Milton and his juvenile delinquent sister Marlo are killed by an exploding marshmellow mall sculpture/fountain, they are sent to Heck. Heck is a kind of limbo where bad kids go before descending into one of the nine layers of hell. The trouble is, Milton is good--the only “bad” thing he has ever done is get blamed for his sister’s petty thievery. Heck is an awful place, full of demons, teachers like Lizzie Borden and Nixon, a giant purple dinosaur that sings, and liver in the ven
Susan Mortimer
Oct 10, 2009 Susan Mortimer rated it liked it
Shelves: lis-565
Brother & sister (Milton & Marlo Fauster) die in a freak accident and are condemed to eternal "darnation" as punishement for their earthly sins...a place tailor made for the sins of youth.

I liked this book initially, for the imagniative writing and scaled-down paralells to Dante, but I came to think that much of the message went over the head of the intended audience. Few kids can make the connection between Bea "Elsa" Bubb and the devil, and fewer still, I suspect, can name the "sins" o
Feb 20, 2009 Caris rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2009

The premise was cool: a place that's not quite Hell where bad kids spend a large portion of eternity, filled with appropriate punishment and redundancy. It sucked, though. It really did. And I don't like to say that. I like to say that I must not have understood it. But I understood this one all too well.

First off, who is supposed to read this? No eleven year old is going to understand all of the references. What's more, there's so much in here that simply isn't appropriate for an eleven y
Jan 29, 2010 paula rated it did not like it
Shelves: children-s
This book tempted me for months. Sitting on the New Books rack with its glowing colors and intricate goth-y cover illustration of two cool kids. And finally I succumbed, took it home, began reading it, a chapter at a time, to my kids at bedtime.

As the dark, twisted details and plot points added up - shoplifting and vandalism, a giant marshmallow bear, thrift-store black dresses - I kept waiting for the story to gel. But beyond the premise: that there is a junior league Hell called Heck, and that
Sep 24, 2010 Maicie rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 25, 2011 Shikamaru rated it it was ok
so my mom wanted me to read this book seeing how i have a good intrest in hell. apperently, this was the first thing she saw about hell, my bad, heck. now this book was ok. not god awful like some books i read, but ok. one reason i think this is because it was meant for a younger audience. another thing was all the cameos by dead people, and yet they missed the most obvious one! Ozzy Osbourne as the music teacher. The fact that he's still alive makes it even more hilarious. now sometimes cameos ...more
Aug 29, 2008 Angela rated it it was ok
Shelves: kidsbooks
There were some neat things about this book---the spoofs/puns on names and things was funny (example : Upchucky Cheez and the principal named Bea "Elsa" Bubb). But there was so much literal potty humor (many scenes of crawling through sewers)and a real non-ending that put me off. The ending and a preview note at the end indicate that this will be a series---using a Dantian nine rings of Heck motif. I doubt that I will follow the series. By the way, Heck is like a juvie Hell where you stay for in ...more
Powder River Rose
After reading the second book I've decided to update this first book review.

I'm in a kid's book kick right now, saw the fun cover and decided I needed to give this a listen. I still give it 3.5 stars. The narration is excellent with a great cast of voices. It's bold, funny, punny, stupid, scary, crazy and a bit naughty. In other words, perfect for kids.

On the one hand, it's stupid funny as young kids like though some of the stuff will go right over their heads. If this is used as a "trivial purs
Jun 17, 2009 Vanessa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Oh how I wish that books like this had been around when I was a kid. Having a little brother IS like a heart shaped bruise. A delightful and funny story that is probably even more enjoyable to an adult audience. I laughed out loud many times and was even grossed out a few times too. I can't wait to read the next one!
Dec 30, 2008 Hannah rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: people who like humour
I loved the book. I can not wait 'till the squeal. I forget what it is called, but when I remember I will post it. All I know is that it is coming out in June.
Anne Hawn Smith
I was reading this to see if I could use it for Homeschool free reading and I still am not sure if it will work. It is the story of a brother and sister who are killed in an accident at a mall. The sister is a particularly "bad" child who loves to do rotten things. She drags along her brother who is exactly the opposite. While shopping she puts some makeup in his bag and so he is technically guilty of stealing. After they die they slide into "Heck" where the bad kids go. In the case of Milton, t ...more
A.J. Pine
Jan 04, 2013 A.J. Pine rated it really liked it
*Cross-posted on

As I delve more into the world of middle grade novels, I am continually surprised…pleasantly, I might add. For a girl (yes, I can still refer to myself as a girl at 38) who loves the romance included in many young adult novels, I was afraid to miss out on this in books for younger readers. But guess what, MG novels are not devoid of love; they just offer a different take, often in the way of friendship, familial love, or the early, early signs of romance, when two
Nov 23, 2011 Janis rated it liked it
Taking on the idea of the circles of Hell from Dante's Inferno, this children's book humorously shares Heck, where the bad kids go. It's a way station until their souls are 18 and they go to either Heaven or Hell.

The premise is clever, much of the storyline is cute. The author is a bit out of touch with children, however. The teachers (yes, kids, there's still school after death) include Lizzie Borden and Richard Nixon (the former president teaches Ethics)--adults would see the humor in that, bu
Jennifer Wardrip
Reviewed by Rebecca Wells for

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
There aren't many (any?) books for kids that take place in hell...I mean, heck. The humor is rather sophisticated for the average young reader (only adults can appreciate that Nixon is in heck teaching a class on ethics); on the other hand there are plenty of grossout scenes involving bodily fluids and waste. I'd suggest this for gifted readers with sharp senses of humor.
Aug 19, 2008 Alex rated it it was ok
Shelves: series
When Milton and Marlo Faust die in a tragic marshmallow related explosion, their souls wind up in Heck, one of the outer reaches of H-e-double hockey sticks. Their tormentor is Bea "Elsa" Bubb, a sadistic demon with bad gas. Milton, Marlo and their friend Virgil plan an elaborate escape.

It started off really funny, but some of the jokes are so subtle I wondered if this was a read aloud book. I am not sure most younger readers would get the references but the jokey aspects are sure to appeal. 2 1
Dr H
Jun 15, 2016 Dr H rated it it was amazing
I loved this book, beginning with the overtly euphemistic title (Remember 'Phil' from Dilbert? 'Prince of Insufficient Light,' come to 'darn you to Heck, for an inconveniently long time'?)
To any moderately literate adult the name-puns are delicious: Milton, Marlo, Fauster, Virgil... and the satire is infectuous: Nixon teaching ethics; Lizzie Borden teaching home economics.

In reading through the reviews on this book -- particularly the negative reviews -- I am struck by how few adults apparently
Conan Tigard
Nov 13, 2015 Conan Tigard rated it really liked it
Heck: Where the Bad Kids Go is an extremely funny book. From being killed by a marshmallow explosion to crawling through stinky poo, can you think of anything funnier? Young boys will especially like this book. Girls will like it also. The book is filled with an awful lot of action which will keep a young reader engrossed in the story.

There are a lot of things that young readers may not get, but as an adult I had to laugh out loud. President Richard Nixon teaching ethics? Ha...that one sure made
Julie Decker
Sep 01, 2014 Julie Decker rated it did not like it
Marlo and Milton, siblings, are sent to Heck when they die in a marshmallow accident. But Milton doesn't belong in Heck, and now they've got to find out why and try to get him out. But enforced separation of girls and boys, horrible authority figures, bullies, and lots of poop prevent them from executing their plans or finding out the secrets behind Milton's wrongful assignment. As they are forced to eat disgusting cafeteria food, attend school taught by questionable teachers, and put up with ab ...more
Dec 08, 2013 Amanda rated it did not like it
This book was awful. It tried really hard to be funny, and just got annoying very quickly. Some of the puns were so ridiculous it took me a while to notice them, so I'm sure kids wouldn't understand them either. Not only was it ridiculous, but it mocked the idea of an afterlife which is okay for some but might offend others. This book read like a story written to use all the "funny" ideas and parallels someone had thought up as opposed to a story that made any sense or had any purpose for the re ...more
Lauren Stoolfire
I do not understand why this has gotten so many poor reviews because it's a very clever and imaginative tale with all kinds of details, especially in the first half. However, the second half of the story did fall a little flat because it just seemed like the characterizations began to fall apart when Milton and Marlo were apart, especially during the extended (and tiring) escape.

I loved that Basye was able successfully remix Dante (there's even a Virgil here) in his vision of Heck and even pull
Kyle T
Aug 20, 2015 Kyle T rated it it was ok
I used to absolutely love this book. And then I became better at critical reading and realized how squirm-worthy it was. Oh my god. ALL THE THINGS ARE MAKE ME CRIE... I thought I would still like it! I thought I would love it after a long while! NOPE.

First complaint: I recently came to understand the author. No author should ever rate their books on Goodreads, unless if it's a negative rating, which implicates his/her understanding that it can be better. 1-2-3- Stars are decent ratings for an au
Dec 30, 2008 Tracey rated it did not like it
Shelves: abandoned, children-s
Children's fiction; humor. This book was aimed at the tween audience but largely missed the mark. Basye tried too hard to be clever, making a pun or semi-witty remark every other sentence or so--the references to historical villains such as Nixon and Lizzie Borden will also be lost on the younger audience; unfortunately, it's not clever enough to entertain the older audiences either. I very quickly got tired of it and eventually quit reading.
Jennifer Best
Dec 14, 2013 Jennifer Best rated it really liked it
What a fun book for old and fairly young alike. After our hero and is trouble-making sister are sent to their doom by an exploding giant marshmallow bunny, they explore Dante's Inferno in the form of a sort of school for the dearly departed.

Full of literary references adults readers might catch while young and old can enjoy the story, the humor, the fun of it all.
Sep 04, 2008 Lauren rated it it was ok
Shelves: middlegrade
I really liked the premise of this book--when you die and are a kid, rather than going straight to Hell, you get a chance in Heck--but it just didn't deliver. I really wasn't routing for the kids, not even the "good one" who seemed to get stuck in Heck by mistake. They just weren't that likeable. And the action dragged on quite a bit. A little disappointing.
Feb 25, 2014 Heidi rated it it was ok
Meh. Like many other reviewers, I was lured in by the clever title and artwork. The concept is interesting, but I agree with other reviewers that it felt like the author was trying too hard to make it clever, especially in the first half. And the author's outlook on life and growing up is just bleak. Sure, junior high is its own circle of hell, but why are babies and toddlers there? And why does it have to be so nasty?

There were a couple themes introduced that I thought interesting, like the ide
Nov 02, 2008 Barbara rated it it was ok
This was a clever idea but it tried way too hard. I had to force myself to finish it. There will be kids who will like it and certainly the title will intrigue them. The author spent way too much time on adjectives and adverbs. Nevertheless, it will have an audience - good triumphs ever evil with a sense of humor.
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Other Books in the Series

The Nine Circles of Heck (7 books)
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