________________ CM . . . . Volume XXIII Number 17 . . . . January 13, 2017


Closing Down Heaven.

Lesley Choyce.
Markham, ON: Red Deer Press, 2017.
176 pp., trade pbk., $13.95.
ISBN 978-0-88995-543-1.

Subject Headings:
Teenagers and death-Juvenile fiction.
Heaven-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 7 and up / Ages 12 and up.

Review by Rachel Seigel.

***½ /4



"Yes I said. I would. But How Would that Work?"

"Trust me. You just have to trust me."

"But I don't really know you. Were you someone I knew in real life?"

"Yes and No."

"Here We Go Again."

"Just let me finish what I have to say."

"So Finish."

"I'm not sure but I think there are plans for closing down heaven."

"All this?"

"All this."

"That doesn't make any sense."

"Well I'm just saying what I think is happening. Look buddy boy, I'm only a tad more informed than you."

"And you call yourself my guru?"

"Good. Hang onto that sense of humor. You'll need it."

"Now what?"

"Say goodbye to your old pal Archie."


After he suffers a fatal mountain biking accident, 16-year-old Hunter arrives in Heaven where he's met by his celestial guide, Archie, who tries to explain the complex rules of this strange and confusing realm. Not long after, Hunter meets Trinity, a girl he used to know in sixth grade, who has arrived there after an accidental drug overdose. From then on, Hunter's mission is to love and protect Trinity and act as her guide in Heaven. Just as they start enjoying the prospect of spending eternity together, Trinity is sent back to her life on Earth. Due to a combination of changing beliefs and overcrowding, the governing parties of Heaven have decided to adopt a more flexible approach to the afterlife, allowing some people to go back. Hunter is also given the opportunity to go back with the chance (or so he believes) to save Trinity. But nothing is ever that simple, and for Hunter, life is about to get a lot more complicated.

      Until Hunter discovered mountain biking, he was content to let life pass him by. The thrill of pushing the limits of both himself and his bike ignited a spark that he hadn't known he was missing. He never meant to die, and he certainly didn't expect the afterlife to be so strange. Upon waking up in the afterlife, he encounters Archie who seems to know little more about this celestial universe than Hunter does. The vague explanation for how it all works hardly does anything to clear up Hunter's confusion, leaving him and readers to draw their own conclusions.

      Trinity's arrival in Heaven seems to give Hunter purpose, with his job being to be her guide, a job which Hunter happily accepts. What follows is a comical sequence of "dates", where cafĂ© tables, bowling lanes and even their school cafeteria appear and disappear as needed. Just when they seem to be settling into romantic bliss, Archie throws them another curveball. Overcrowding and changing beliefs have resulted in Heaven's version of bureaucrats to consider closing down Heaven and to start sending people back – beginning with the most recent arrivals, i.e., Trinity and Hunter.

      Hunter's return to Earth is far from simple. Once he's recovered from the injuries related to his mountain biking accident, he decides that preventing Trinity's death is his new mission, except that she doesn't seem to remember anything about Heaven, and Hunter is unable to control her eventual outcome.

      Lack of control is a central theme of the novel, and one with which teens will identify. Choyce's version of Heaven is fluid and unstructured. Rules and situations change on a dime, and Archie, whose attitude seems laissez-faire to Hunter, reflects this. Archie realizes that Heaven, like life, requires a certain amount of rolling with it. Free will makes life unpredictable, and no matter Hunter's desires or intent, he eventually learns that sometimes things are simply out of his control.

      Written in spare but elegant free verse, Closing Down Heaven is a quick read full of big ideas that will encourage teens to consider their own ideas on life and death.

Highly Recommended.

Rachel Seigel is Sales and Selection Strategist at EduCan Media.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.

Next Review | Table of Contents for This Issue - January 13, 2017.

CM Home
| Back Issues | Search | CM Archive | Profiles Archive