The Ten Best Days of My Life is the story of Alex Dorenfield (and her beloved dog, Peaches). Alex is shocked when she finds herself in Heaven after being brutally hit by a car on a late night/early morning dog-walking session. However, things aren’t as bad as they first appear to be. Alex is thrilled to meet up with her grandparents and beloved uncle in Heaven. She meets the cutest guy, Adam, in line waiting to get into Heaven - and is it just coincidence that he ends up living next door to her?
Once Alex discovers the benefits of Seventh Heaven (the highest possible level of Heaven one can achieve), she is delirious with happiness. A closet the size of a bedroom full of designer clothes, shoes, and accessories, her dream house, a cute guy next door, and being able to eat anything and everything without gaining weight (and no cellulite!). What else could a girl want?
Therein lies the problem. One morning, shortly after arriving in Seventh Heaven, Alex’s guardian angel drops by for a quick chat. It seems that “the establishment” in Heaven isn’t quite sure whether Alex really deserves to be in Seventh Heaven or whether she should be sent back to one of the lower levels (still nice, but nothing compared to Seventh). In order to prove that she belongs, Alex is asked to write an essay chronicling the ten best days of her life to demonstrate that while her life was short, it was worthwhile. This journey of reflection and self-introspection is what provides the heart and soul of The Ten Best Days of My Life.
At the beginning of the novel and through the first few parts of her essay, Alex seems demonstrably spoiled and whiny. Her general level of self-importance is irritating, and she seems to have a very strong sense of entitlement. While not difficult to like, she is difficult to respect. For example, her constant use of the phrase “miracle child” to describe herself is off-putting and generally seems in bad taste. However, this seems to be a deliberate move on the author’s part. By characterizing Alex as a rather selfish narcissist, she leaves quite a lot of room for character growth. When that development finally comes, it is satisfying and leaves the reader with a sense of delight.
While The Ten Best Days of My Life is Adena Halpern’s debut in fiction, she has previously written what can best be characterized as a fashion memoir entitled Target Underwear and a Vera Wang Gown. Having read that book, it is easy to see where the inspiration for Alex comes from; Halpern has written what she knows. Though sometimes this can lead to monotony, in this case it pays off. She retains the wit from her previous work but proves that she has more than a good sense of humor. The ability to craft a solid, enjoyable story from scratch is a difficult one. Halpern has proven her talents as a writer as fiction and I look forward to reading her next work.
Another chick lit-type book was recently released about Heaven that people will inevitably compare to this novel: Earthly Pleasures by Karen Neches. Which is better? It’s difficult to say. Though they are both about Heaven, the novels themselves are very different. Halpern’s work is more fluff, syrupy sweetness and reflections on life and what is important. Neches, on the other hand, seems to dig a little deeper under the surface and crafts more of a mystery. Which one should you read? If you like the genre, read both. They are different enough that you’ll not feel like you’re reading the same thing twice. The real question is, whose version of heaven would you rather visit?
The Ten Best Days of My Life is not grand literature. However, it is an immensely sweet novel that will endear itself to anyone who wants a book which will make them smile. Fans of chick lit should put this on their reading list for 2008.