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Heaven Looks a Lot Like the Mall
By Wendy Mass
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- Trade Paperback $14.99 $19.99 CAD
- ebook $8.99 $11.99 CAD
This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around November 1, 2008. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.
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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.
Copyright © 2007 by Wendy Mass
Reader's Guide Copyright © 2008 by Little, Brown and Company
All rights reserved. Except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior written permission of the publisher.
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Little, Brown and Company is a division of Hachette Book Group, Inc.
The Little, Brown name and logo are trademarks of Hachette Book Group, Inc.
First eBook Edition: November 2008
First published in hardcover in 2007 by Little, Brown and Company
The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.
Summary: When high school junior Tessa Reynolds falls into a coma after getting hit in the head during gym class, she experiences heaven as the mall where her parents work, and she revisits key events from her life, causing her to reevaluate herself and how she wants to live.
Also by Wendy Mass:
A Mango-Shaped Space Leap Day
Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life
Every Soul a Star
For fifty cents and a Gobstopper
I lifted my shirt for the neighborhood boys.
My older brother Matt caught us
and chased the boys with a
Word got around, and at nine years old
I became the girl
other girls' moms
didn't want them to play with.
For some reason,
this is the memory in my head
as the fluorescent orange dodgeball
hurtles toward me at something like
the speed of light, but in slow motion
at the same time.
In my high school there are jocks,
preps, cheerleaders, teachers' pets,
hicks, stoners, slackers, dorks, cool kids,
regular geeks, nerds, populars, burnouts,
freaks, punks, intellectuals, scene kids,
emo kids, goths, loners, losers, wankstas,
sluts, haters, skaters, speds, straight-edgers,
floaters, and drifters. And yet I'm the one
someone has chosen as a dodgeball target.
I stare at the orange ball, unable to move,
and I wonder, which came first,
the color orange, or the fruit?
And why is an orange the only fruit
that has to share its name with its color?
A banana isn't called yellow.
It's not fair.
If I were an orange, I would complain.
If I were an orange, I wouldn't be
standing here in dorky gym shorts,
which are too tight in the thighs/butt
(and not in a good way.)
I wouldn't have to take gym class at all,
where everyone can see that I missed
shaving that stripe of hair
on the back of my legs.
I don't know who fired this ball,
but they should get a major league contract
instead of applying to college.
Speaking of college,
why are my parents making me
write my college application essay
when there's still two weeks 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 mean, I don't even have the slightest,
vaguest clue. Well, I know the basics.
My name, shoe size, bra size,
favorite color, and what I ate for breakfast,
but I don't think that's what they mean.
I bet Amanda Jentis knows who she is –
the most popular girl in school
with a thousand friends on her MySpace.
Once, she smiled at me in the hall
and said, "Cute shirt." I think she meant it too,
because her friend Allie didn't laugh
and ask, "Were you serious?"
like she did when Amanda told some freshman
that she liked his haircut.
And to top it all off,
an old Ashlee Simpson song
keeps going through my head
as if I haven't sworn off boys.
Hey, how long till you're leaving me alone,
Don't you got somewhere to go?
I didn't steal your boyfriend.
These gym shorts are giving me a wedgie.
Should I fix them? I probably don't have time,
on account of the ball.
Out of the corner of my eye
I see Andy Beckerman –
who I once had a sort of date with –
staring at my butt.
Can he see the wedgie?
Or is he just thinking I have a big butt?
The time to duck, or move out of the way,
is rapidly approaching. Any normal person
would duck. It's, like, a natural human reaction. Ball-whizzing-toward-head equals DUCK.
Why aren't I ducking?
I could say, in my defense,
the dodgeball is made of rubber.
How much damage
could a rubber ball do?
I am sixteen.
My head is hard.
And who thinks aiming balls
at someone's head is a healthy pursuit
for teenagers hyped up on caffeine?
Apparently dodgeball is banned
in most schools now,
but our principal does not believe
in banning. Our school library
takes pride in its collection of books
that have been banned
I watch the ball get closer
and closer as my teammates
and farther away from me.
I watch, mesmerized, as it smacks
the blond girl – not a natural blond,
but you wouldn't know it
unless you looked really hard at her roots –
squarely on the left side of her head.
I watch her neck bend back
at a really weird angle.
I watch as she falls,
not crumpling gracefully
like in the movies,
but slamming hard
onto the shiny gym floor.
I wonder if some people are thinking
this is the most exciting thing to happen
in gym since Claire Franklin and Billy Sams
were caught doing it behind the bleachers.
I watch as the others run toward her,
some screaming and others smiling,
and I don't blame the ones
who are smiling. I know that sometimes
when presented with a real-life shock
you don't know how to handle it,
so you smile like when you're watching
a movie and it's supposed to be entertaining,
but you're like, this is just violent,
why is this supposed to be entertaining?
but then you smile anyway
because the actor or actress is really cute
and says something sarcastic and you try
not to look at the body while you wait
for the next scene.
I watch the gym teacher yell "Stand back"
and for someone to get the school nurse.
The janitor arrives
I guess to wipe up the blood.
I know the girl on the floor, the one
with her neck bent all weird,
I know the girl is me.
But I'm too busy soaring
toward Heaven to care.
And the thing that is most surprising,
the thing you might not know,
is that in the right light,
Heaven looks a lot like the mall.
When I land – well, not so much land,
exactly, but stop soaring – I find myself
standing in front of the Information Booth.
It is not just any information booth,
at any mall, in any town.
I am at MY OWN MALL,
in my own town.
There may be thirty thousand
malls in America,
but I would recognize mine anywhere.
The sprawling brick and glass
and linoleum structure
filled with everything
anyone would ever need.
But how did I get here?
Did I drive? Is Matt home
from college and he drove me?
Did my parents bring me
to work with them?
The last thing I remember
I was sprawled, spread-eagle
on the gym floor,
which is not a very ladylike position,
and my mother would have been horrified
if she knew, because appearances
are very, very important
Okay. I might not be
the smartest pair of jeans on the rack,
but I'm pretty sure I know
what's going on.
I just never believed
in an afterlife before.
And to be honest, I always thought
mine would come in shades of red
and heat. I never thought I would be
lucky enough to wind up here,
where I feel more at home
than my real home.
Both of my parents work here,
and over the years I've spent
more time here than anywhere
except for school.
I know the mall like the back of my hand,
although when you think about it,
that expression is really dumb,
because if someone showed me
the back of my hand, and then the back
of someone else's hand,
could I truly tell the difference?
And why does the blood in my veins
look blue, when the gym floor proves
it is red?
I love the mall. I love the smooth, shiny floors,
the marble and chrome that make you feel
like an honored guest. I love the skylights
that fill the open spaces with shafts of light,
the escalators that lead you up to the bounty
of riches on the top floor, Gucci and Fendi,
Godiva and Betsey Johnson, Tiffany and Lucky –
all the places out of my reach. I love the flowering
plants and gurgling fountains that make you think
it's summer in the middle of March.
I know the tricks stores use to keep customers
inside, like the absence of windows so you won't know
how late it is, the music they play to keep you
energized, the lighting in the dressing rooms
that makes you look tanner, the way the mirrors
are slightly tilted forward to make you look thinner.
I know where the security cameras are hidden –
behind the trees, under the posters,
inside the light fixtures.
I know they bunch together all the teenage stores
like Aeropostale, PacSun, A&F, American Eagle,
Hollister, Rampage, Hot Topic, Spencer's, and Wet Seal
so the rest of the mall doesn't have to deal with us,
and the security guys won't have to follow us
as far. They don't follow me at all
because I'm a mall brat, which is like an army brat,
except your parents work here instead of in the army,
and it's an unspoken agreement
that we would never steal from ourselves
except sometimes we do.
I have spent so much
of my life in this mall,
I suppose it is only fitting that I spend
eternity here as well.
But where is the pearly gate?
Where are the angels and harps?
(Not that I really like harps. I mean, honestly, who does? But still,
what is Heaven without harps?)
At least being dead
I won't ever have to write
that stupid college essay.
I guess now I'll never find out
who I am. Or was. Or would have been.
Although let's face it, my future
wasn't so bright that I'd have to wear shades.
I bet a lot of kids
would be royally ticked off
if they died during dodgeball.
They would feel betrayed
and maybe angry or sad.
But I have perfected the art
of not feeling
anything at all.
In a way, this whole dying thing
takes a lot of the pressure off.
It's just too hard trying not to cross
all those fine lines that everyone is aware of,
even though they don't talk about them:
Be honest, but don't hurt anyone's feelings
be independent, but not a loner
be smart, but not a nerd
be sexy, but not a slut
be skinny, but don't barf up your burger
be funny, but not to hide some other deficiency.
How the heck is a girl
supposed to "be" anything?
I look around at the shops on either side
of the Information Booth.
I bet I could shop for free!
I could ask Old Bev because she's been here
since the mall opened in the eighties,
and she's always in her little chair
giving someone directions to Pottery Barn
or the AMC theaters or Burger King, and she would know
if the dead people can shop for free.
Some people say she looks
like she was put together with spare parts,
and maybe she does, but she's always been
really sweet to me.
But Bev is not manning the booth.
In fact, I see no one else in the entire mall.
Which is weird, since gym class is smack
in the middle of the day.
I look up through the big skylight. No sky,
no clouds, no stars. Only blackness.
I ring the bell on the counter anyway.
The echo bounces off empty walls
and cavernous spaces. Then I notice
a note taped to the counter:
Tessa Reynolds (that's me!),
Welcome to The Mall of Heaven.
Hang on for the ride of your life.
–The Mall Manager
It slowly dawns on me
(nothing dawns on me quickly,
as proven by my mediocre SAT scores)
that someone's gone to a lot of effort
to make me comfortable.
I wonder if to my father, Heaven
looks a lot like a bowling alley.
I plop down next to the Info Booth,
on the white plastic bench
made possible by a generous donation from the Elks Club.
I wait. I wait and wait
some more. Surely someone will tell me what to do.
My neck still aches
from the supersonic dodgeball.
Aren't all your relatives
supposed to greet you
when you get to Heaven?
My two grandfathers should be here.
And Muffin, our family cat
who Dad said was sent to a farm
so he would have a better quality of life,
but I found out later he was hit
by a kid on a skateboard, which can happen, even if
people don't think it can.
If this is the ride of my life,
I want a refund.
No one is coming.
Maybe everyone is somewhere else.
Maybe they are eating in the food court.
Maybe I could get a hot dog-on-a-stick.
My mother never lets me get those
because she once watched a documentary
on how hot dogs are made, and now
will only buy fake dogs, like Soy Pups.
But even if she hadn't seen
that show, she still wouldn't let me eat
one, because of all the calories.
I think my mother truly believes
that all I need is a good makeover
and all my "issues" will go away,
like in those movies where the girl
is really pretty but she wears glasses
and her hair in a ponytail, so you're not
supposed to notice that she's really pretty,
and all she needs to do is let down her hair,
get contacts, and put on some lip gloss
and everyone wants to take her
to the prom, but she decides all she wants
is the nerdy guy who was always nice to her,
so she blows off the captain of the football team
and walks away, her head held high,
to the tune of some pop song.
But you can't take off
twenty extra pounds
by letting down your hair.
I better check that my mother
is really not here
because she has spies
all over the food court,
and I have spent enough time
in my life hearing how I'm ruining
my body by eating junk food.
I don't have to hear it in death.
I head down the hall to Lord & Taylor.
The gate is pulled down, lights off.
If she was at her post
behind the makeup counter,
I'd be able to see her
from here. I suddenly feel a chill
and back up a few feet. The reality
of my situation is sneaking up on me.
I push it away.
What was I thinking of before?
Oh, yeah, the hot dog-on-a-stick.
The escalator is turned off so I climb up it,
which feels weird, like trying to climb up a frozen waterfall.
On the counter of the hot dog stand,
on a yellow paper plate, is one
cornbread-covered hot dog-on-a-stick.
Next to it is a Post-it note with my name on it.
I am beginning to feel VERY special!
I gobble the dog, which is just as delicious
as I'd always suspected, only slightly surprised
that I am hungry in Heaven.
As I toss the stick in the plastic garbage bin,
I glance at a wall made of mirrors and gasp.
There is dried, crusty blood all over the right side
of my head and neck and cheek. And my hair
is all matted down, after I spent a particularly long time
straightening it this morning and even burned
That gym floor really made an impact!
I am grossed out by myself.
Totally grossed out.
This is not the first time
I have been horrified at my reflection,
but usually it is because of a pimple on my chin,
or my potbelly or any of the other things
Mom not-so-subtly points out at any opportunity.
Plus, I am still wearing my yellow and green
gym uniform. I do not ever wear yellow
and green in public. In fact, ever since the junior prom
last month, I've worn only black.
- On Sale
- Nov 1, 2008
- Page Count
- 256 pages
- Little, Brown Books for Young Readers