Read enough books and a person is bound to come across a few that seemed promising at the outset but then failed to live up to its potential or are sometimes just plain disappointing. So it was with Heck:Where the Bad Kids Go and the sequel Rapacia: Second level of Heck. When these books first arrived at the library, I chuckled at how clever the title and cover art was. I’d ordered the books thinking they’d be a fun, humorous addition to our library and would be a good fit for those students who enjoyed Diary of a Wimpy Kid (DOAWK) type books. It just didn’t happen that way. The verbal savvy of many students who liked the (DOAWK) books isn’t quite developed enough to appreciate Heck…. A closer match to the level of verbal ability needed to be able to wade through Heck would be those readers who navigated and enjoyed the Series of Unfortunate Events books. Don’t get me wrong…not all the word play in this book is super sophisticated (even youngish 6th graders will “get” the reference to Upchucky Cheese restaurant…but the unrelenting word play as storyline device will challenge many teen readers and weary many adult readers.
As an adult reader, I was initially taken aback by what seemed to be one double entendre after another though I did have a few chuckles in seeing some of my own favorite obscure (to teens) references such as “ I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore” as well as the hilarious (for a teacher-librarian) observation… “except the stakes are a little higher…Each soul year you’ll be given you SATs—Soul Aptitute Tests. Based on these rigorous, highly standardized exams, your eternal fate will be decided” . However, all in all, while the stories were okay, I felt as if I wanted to hurry through the books so I could read something else more satisfying. I plan to visit with the next students who check out these books to see if they really managed to read all the way through and whether or not they enjoyed the books (and why or why not).