Heaven Looks A Lot Like the Mall
When sixteen-year old Tessa suffers a shocking accident in gym class, she finds herself in heaven (or what she thinks is heaven), which happens to bear a striking resemblance to her hometown mall. In the tradition of It's a Wonderful Life and A Christmas Carol, Tessa starts reliving her life up until that moment. She sees some things she'd rather forget, learns some things about herself she'd rather not know, and ultimately must find the answer to one burning question--if only she knew what the question was.
When I heard that author Wendy Mass would be visiting our school next spring, I wasn't familiar with her work so I decided to read some of her books. I'm so glad I did. I started with Heaven Looks A Lot Like the Mall because I love verse novels. After reading the back cover (quoted above) I was expecting an entertaining story, but I wasn't expecting just how much of myself I'd see in the story.
Tessa, with the help of her guide, a boy she refers to as Nail Boy, has the opportunity to find out who she really is. She realizes that she's done many things in the past she isn't proud of. She also realizes that although her focus has been on the negative parts of her life, there have been many positive times too. I think readers will see a little of themselves in Tessa because we've all done things we wish we could take back, and often forget to enjoy the good things. I also think that many of us go through times in our life when we wonder who we really are. One poem I especially like asks the question that many teens (and adults) have. It begins:
Speaking of college,
why are my parents making me
write my college application essay
when there's still two years of junior year left?
And why does the essay question have to be so hard?
Who are you?
They have the nerve to ask me this,
and then tell me I can attach extra paper,
if I need it.
Who am I?
I have no idea.
I won't give away the ending, but I will say I've been thinking about it since I finished the book. I have some questions I can't wait to ask Wendy Mass about Heaven Looks A Lot Like the Mall.
Three of her other books, Every Soul a Star, A Mango-Shaped Space and Jeremy Fink and The Meaning of Life are on my Christmas Wish List. They aren't verse novels, but I like the author's voice and style so I'm certain I'll enjoy reading them.