From School Library Journal
Grade 7 Up-David is in a van full of self-described goof-offs (and one female nerd, Marie) on a field trip that takes a sudden turn to disaster and kills them all. Well, almost kills them all, as he and Marie realize that they aren't ready to die. The cheeky teen, informed during their bus ride to heaven that he cannot talk to God, boldly challenges Him to a debate. As president of the Crestview High Speech and Debate Club, Marie decides to help her classmate prepare his arguments, but they consistently run into dead ends, including a funny bit for librarians about using the heavenly library's computer catalog. Omniscient God offers to help, but is refused. David initially avoids perusing God's journals (Genesis, Romans, Revelation) but finally reads enough to be inspired by the story of Jacob wrestling God. At the debate, the ill-prepared mortal attempts a filibuster, but eventually concedes that he really wants to live because he is not ready to give up on other people or on himself. The book is suffused with a gentle humor, from God showing himself to be a great surfer to the hot band made up of Jimi, Janis, and John that David's pals go to hear, and teens may come away from it with a different attitude about the Big Kahuna. Don't look for well-developed characters or a fully realized setting, but this novella presents a humane and loving take on God. No leap of faith is required to enjoy this easy-to-read, fast-paced contemporary parable.Joel Shoemaker, Southeast Junior High School, Iowa City, IA
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
David is dead, killed in a van accident along with several classmates and a teacher while on a field trip. But on the way to heaven, David realizes that as far as he and nerdy classmate Marie are concerned, there's been a mistake. So he decides to debate God and prove he's in the wrong place. The book's plot is fresh (although perhaps not to kids who've seen the movie Defending Your Life
), but the treatment is scattershot. Pearson moves the action along so fast that David and Marie are only stereotypes--the rich, overprivileged clown, and the poor, "good girl" grind. Marie and David do research for the debate and fall for each other, but again it's all so rushed the emotions don't seem real. The book is at its best when Pearson finally slows down and lets David take on God, who is described quite movingly: "He searched God's face. God was an old friend, someone David had always known, but he was also a stranger. One David had passed on the street, averting his eyes, not wanting to become engaged." There's something to think about here. Pair this book with Cynthia Rylant's The Heavenly Village
for kids with heaven on their minds. Ilene Cooper