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The Fifth Circle of Heck
Dale E. Basye
Illustrated by Bob Dob

Random House Books for Young Readers
May 22, 2012 / ISBN: 0375868348
Fantasy / Tweeners / Reading Ages 9 and up

Reviewed by Brenda Weeaks

Back again are the main characters: cautious Milton and impulsive Marlo. They were killed in a freak marshmallow explosion (Heck: Where Bad Kids Go). Milton is sure Marlo is the reason they're in Heck and not Heaven. Heck is an unearthly place with Nine Circles. In this episode they enter Snivel: the Fifth Circle of Heck. It reads like a summer camp nightmare.

Milton is eleven years old at the time of his death. To him Snivel looks like a giant teardrop in the sky. Milton and Marlo along with a set of conjoined Twins catch the SighTram to Snivel . It's driven by Friar Miles (get it?). It's a harrowing ride to the gates of Camp Snivel. Once there they meet up with Grin Reaper, a creepy fellow who collects laughter and keeps it in a jar. Camp Snivel is a summer camp but it's really a bummer camp. It's upside down; the dump (landfill) is actually in the sky (skyfill). Also they have a lake like all summer camps. This one is called Lake Rymose - "Filled with tears of every Unhappy Camper sent to Snivel." Marlo notices sad pictures of grimy kids posted on trees. They read: "HAVE YOU SEEN ME?" There is also a Town Cryer, who wails the time and lets them know when things are getting worse and worse. Edgar Allen Poe is the Vice Principal and Bea "Elsa" Bubb is the principal (Elsa is a She). There are depressing films to watch just like in school and an Art class taught by Van Gogh. The Grin Reaper comes to the Art class to collect three kids, one being Marlo. They are never heard from again. It's up to Milton to find Marlo and the rest of the missing kids.

Wow, what a quirky, off-the-wall-dark-kids-in-mind-kind-of-cool series. There are lots of macabre characters with ironic names, plenty of twists in words and meanings and never-ending dark witticisms. Of course since we are talking about Heck, (dark and light) it does mention a devil in trouble and an archangel wanting to take charge. It's a detailed, entertaining fantasy tale for tweeners and up.

Reviewed 2012
© 2012