Book Review: Heaven Looks a Lot Like the Mall by Wendy Mass

Posted May 23, 2013 by Renae // 7 Comments

Book Review: Heaven Looks a Lot Like the Mall by Wendy Mass

Title: Heaven Looks a Lot Like the Mall
Author: Wendy Mass
Release Date: September 1, 2007
Publisher: Little Brown BFYR

Summary from Goodreads:

When 16-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 The 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.

Written in sharp, witty verse, Wendy Mass crafts an extraordinary tale of a spunky heroine who hasn't always made the right choices, but needs to discover what makes life worth living.

In the interest of full disclosure, I picked this book up because it was a novel in verse and because my youngest sister read and liked it (it’s rare to find her with a book that’s not manga). I probably wouldn’t have read this on my own, since this sounds suspiciously like The Lovely Bones and If I Stay, neither of which I enjoyed. So there you have it.

Heaven Looks a Lot Like the Mall is a really short book, and it’s extremely easy to read. Mass’s poetry reads like very juvenile prose—maybe something in a younger middle grade book. Personally, I wasn’t impressed, since her poetry didn’t feel like poetry. Rather I thought she just threw some line breaks and stanzas into her writing to make it seem cool. There’s not really a correct way to write poetry, but I personally think Mass went a little crazy with enjambment in this one.

Additionally, there isn’t much of a plot to this book. Basically, Tessa gets hit in the head by a dodgeball, slips into a coma, and has an out-of-body experience where she watches important scenes in her life slip by. But the presentation was very straightforward and felt childish to me. Heaven Looks a Lot Like the Mall is basically a series of scenes that range from Tessa at a year old to Tessa at junior prom, told chronologically. There was no conflict and no rising action. Just little pieces of Tessa’s life laid out very unceremoniously.

Altogether, I’m just “meh” in regards to this book. It honestly felt like something geared toward elementary-aged children, and considering Wendy Mass’s main claim to fame is her children’s books, this makes sense. This entire book felt oversimplified and silly. It wasn’t bad, and I think that if I were my sister’s age, I might have liked it more.

Renae has written book reviews and other miscellany for Respiring Thoughts since 2012. She loves dogs, Mexican food, mountains, Shakespeare, and procrastinating. She's currently working on an undergrad degree in English/Spanish lit in the Midwest. Connect with Renae on Twitter, Goodreads, and Tumblr.

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7 responses to “Book Review: Heaven Looks a Lot Like the Mall by Wendy Mass

    • I have liked some verse novels, but it really depends. I think some authors just throw line breaks into their sentences and call it “poetry”, which doesn’t tend to work. And that’s what happened here, I thought. So if you were to try and read some verse novels, I most definitely wouldn’t suggest this one! 😉

  1. I can love books in verse, but if it comes across as juvenile then I’m immediately put off. Nothing about this really sounds appealing to me, unfortunately, though I can see a younger version of myself thinking it sounded fun.
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    • This one is almost certainly geared toward younger YA readers, which is probably why it worked for my sister and not for me. I think that’s it, at least!

  2. This was actually my most recent read. I liked it more than you did, but I can see where you’re coming from with the whole juvenile thing. It was simplistic, but I figured it was supposed to be along the lines of A Christmas Carol (which doesn’t have much more of a plot than this book, really).

    • Yeah, it’s definitely similar to A Christimas Carol. But for me, Dickens writing was a bit more interesting and less childish. I guess that made all the difference.