My Vacation in Hell

Young Adult - Sci-Fi
198 Pages
Reviewed on 02/16/2014
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Author Biography

Gene Twaronite’s short stories, poems, and essays have appeared in numerous literary journals and magazines. He is the author of the young adult fantasy novels The Family That Wasn’t and My Vacation in Hell, as well as his new collection of children’s stories Dragon Daily News. His humorous column “The Absurd Naturalist” appears monthly in 5enses. Follow more of Gene’s writing at his blog “The Twaronite Zone.”
Gene is a published member of Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America and the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. An accomplished speaker with a MA in Education, he offers interactive PowerPoint programs, based on his books, free to any school or library in Arizona. His newest book is "Approaching Wilderness: Six Stories of Dementia," which is available as a short Kindle e-book.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Dinorah Blackman for Readers' Favorite

In his ingenious novel My Vacation in Hell, Gene Twaronite explores what hell would be like from the perspective of a young unpopular boy. In hell, John and his friend Virgil face a number of adventurous, even comical situations as they come face to face with the concept of eternal punishment. With all watches and clocks stuck at 2:55, only five minutes before summer vacation begins, the boys risk missing out on their break as they delve deeper and deeper into the bottomless pit. For what seems like an eternity, they face temptations of many kinds that threaten to enslave them. But Virgil, who happens to have written the handbook, turns out to be a somewhat reliable guide. Virgil helps John over the difficult patches as they travel through the levels of hell and the categories of evil and punishment. There's horrible music by the world’s worst musicians being played in a loop, putrid smells, nauseating slime they must wade through, and rabid mobs or hideous beasts chasing them. But the boys manage to escape each threatening situation. As they progress through hell, painful memories resurface and new friendships are formed.

Without a doubt, My Vacation in Hell is an unusual story. Gene Twaronite has such a vivid imagination that the reader can’t help but become absorbed in his imagery. The way in which he describes each adventure makes you wonder if he might be on to something and if his version of hell might just be correct. Twaronite subtly integrates general religious teachings in his tale and allows no doubt that evil is punished. The relationship between John and Virgil is believable, as most of us have had one such friend. Beth, on whom John seems to have a huge crush, is introduced gently as some sort of guardian or protector. In the end, the reader needs to draw his or her own conclusions; did this journey really take place or was John simply daydreaming in class again?