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Heck: Where the Bad Kids Go

(The Nine Circles of Heck #1)

3.44  ·  Rating details ·  1,918 ratings  ·  418 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, 304 pages
Published July 22nd 2008 by Random House Books for Young Readers (first published January 1st 2008)
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Average rating 3.44  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,918 ratings  ·  418 reviews

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Jan 14, 2008 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
Jan 21, 2014 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
Aug 29, 2008 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
I give this book three stars, although if you listen to the audio book narrated by my favorite reader, Bronson Pinchot you can boost it up to four stars.

The story of a brother and sister who are killed at a shopping mall when a giant marshmallow bear explodes on them as they attempt to shoplift an oar is rather silly. You can see many of the gags coming a mile away.

But Pinchot reads it as if the old material is fresh and new. He has excellent timing, knows just how long to pause before explodi
Susan Mortimer
Oct 09, 2009 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" of such "
Dec 04, 2008 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: no one
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
Erin the Avid Reader ⚜BFF's with the Cheshire Cat⚜
Man...what the HECK is up with this book? (See what I did there? Didn't laugh? I don't blame you...but guess what? The puns in this book are just as unbearable)! Albeit a very clever idea with a kiddie purgatory and all, the execution of this book is so outrageous and all over the map I felt a tear trickle down my cheek while reading it.

The only parts that made me laugh was the part where it talks about Lizzy Borden and Nixon teaching kids in hell. I didn't laugh at what I was supposed to laugh
Wendi Lee
Siblings Marlo and Milton die from a marshmallow accident and end up in Heck, a kind of reform school and holding place for kids under the age of 18. Marlo, supposedly, is deserving of Heck, but Milton is placed there due to a clerical error. There are lots of icky details as the two, joined soon by Virgil, navigate through the sticky, yucky school. Richard Nixon teaches them ethics, and Lizzie Borden home economics, both of which made me chuckle. There's also a few near escapes, orchestrated by ...more
Sep 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
The beginning of this book was so delightful and hilarious I could hardly stand it. ALL the undeworld puns and references to afterlife literature. My enthusiasm flagged a bit through the middle, but I still enjoyed it. The audiobook, narrated by Bronson Pinchot, was really well-done and his voice was perfectly suited to the story.
I listened to the audio book with my 10 year old son. While the narrator did a good job with the voices, the story had too many one liners, puns and characters that went over his head. It was too advanced for him to get the jokes of Lizzie Borden, Richard Nixon and Bee "Elsa" Bub, yet too eye rolling for me.

I'm not sure what age group I would recommend this one to.

Update: Now I understand why I thought the narrator did such a good job, because it's Bronson Pinchot!
Donna Armstrong
Mar 16, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2017-reads
Very entertaining read. Definitely puts a new perspective on the after life and what it consists of. Would recommend that you read this book, it was a very fast read.
Jan 22, 2010 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 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 25, 2011 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 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
Dec 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
A very good children’s read about a very serious subject! It can be a little gruesome at times but then again, so is Roald Dahl in his storytelling. If you aren’t too sensitive about violence as humor (especially towards children) then you will find this a good read. Some adult references to Richard Nixon and Dior being in “heck” and play on words make this a somewhat entertaining read for adults as well. Very much enjoyed the connected between Dante’s Inferno and children’s literature. Author i ...more
Jun 17, 2009 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! ...more
Rachael Drenckpohl
Jan 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
I was assigned this book in a literature class surveying Heaven and Hell. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked it. I could do without all the poop, but hey, I guess that is Hell. Lol. I’ll continue to read.
Dec 30, 2008 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. ...more
Rachel Huddleston
Dec 03, 2020 rated it liked it
Children aren’t fully responsible for their actions, so if they die, they don’t go to Hell. They go to Heck—an eternal school where they are humiliated and tortured in true child-like ways—by things like horribly hideous school uniforms, eternal time-out, and Christmas that never comes.
This book was quirky and weird. It says it’s for children, but I REALLY question that. Aside from being pretty dark, there’s so many jokes and references for adults, I don’t know if a kid would get half t
Aug 23, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: gillie, iris
This is really funny, really, but it's mostly a flop. There is no plot, except trying to escape...which you kind of know they don't, because this is an 8-9 book series. So while I wished I was enjoying the genuinely funny references to Lizzy Borden or Christian Dior, I just wondered when it would be over. Several parts of it were also severely dated. The ending picked up a little, and I loved the concept, and also enjoyed the chance to research/chat over the famous characters who found themselve ...more
Kathy McC
Jan 31, 2018 rated it it was ok
My book club students chose this for their February read. I can't wait to hear their reactions.
Mine- mindless entertainment.
Oct 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book (and the whole series) is amazing. I read it when it first came out and bought it for all my younger sisters the second I finished it. This is actually the book that inspired my youngest sister's love of reading. Reading had always been hard for her because she is severely dyslexic and was unfortunately diagnosed kind of late, so she was frustrated and discouraged about reading; this book made her realize that some stories were worth the struggle. Now she gets antsy if she doesn't know ...more
Aug 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: junior-fiction
I was sold on the title and the cover. It's pretty great, but the series gets a little hard to keep track of with all the different story lines going on. Definitely enjoyed reading it. ...more
Kumar Ayush
Jan 14, 2018 rated it liked it
It is supposed to be written for early teens, or so I hope. In any case, the idea is great, the implementation subpar.
Dr H
Jun 15, 2016 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
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
Aug 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
Lots of sneaky puns and weird quirks, but alrighty, still funny.
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
Jan 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
3.5 stars. I wanted to like this book a bit more than I did, and I think it's main problem was that it wasn't quite edgy enough, not quite snarky or mature enough for me. But the characters were interesting to follow and the descriptions of places and a lot of the ideas presented were really engaging. The basic plot is Milton and his older sister Marlo Fauster (lots of literary and historical references in this, some of which were a bit obvious and others were quite clever actually, especially s ...more
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Other books in the series

The Nine Circles of Heck (8 books)
  • Rapacia: The Second Circle of Heck
  • Blimpo: The Third Circle of Heck
  • Fibble: The Fourth Circle of Heck
  • Snivel: The Fifth Circle of Heck
  • Precocia: The Sixth Circle of Heck
  • Wise Acres: The Seventh Circle of Heck
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