Hellhole by Gina Damico
Genre: Young adult horror/humor
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Release date: January 6 2015
Source: e-ARC from publisher via NetGalley
The nitty-gritty: A hilarious, laugh-out-loud “deal with the devil” story that was a blast to read!
“Please call me Burg,” he said with a smile, his beard widening. It wasn’t a well-trimmed beard, but rather the feral, unkempt kind that resulted from a weeklong bender, with Cheetos debris sprinkled throughout. His forehead was tall, his brow cavemanlike. His hair probably had things living in it. And his horns, while white and polished and slightly iridescent, ended in ragged, cracked tips.
In short, he didn’t look like the devil. He looked like the kind of early forties, thrice-divorced alcoholic who owned a grungy car wash and had to become a sperm donor to pay rent.
Before I can begin my review, I have to indulge in a small rant. I was approved for Hellhole on NetGalley, and as sometimes happens, the Kindle version of the book was not available. This meant that I had to dust off my ancient, circa-2010 Nook Color in order to read it. The reason I switched to Kindle a couple of years ago was so that I didn’t have to use my Nook Color, which at the best of times is unreliable and at the worst is downright evil. But I was determined to read Hellhole, and so I struggled with a reader that freezes every fifty pages or so and has to be rebooted a couple of times before I can keep reading. I nearly gave up, but Hellhole was so entertaining, and I really did want to find out how it ended. I guess it’s appropriate then, since Hellhole is the story of a devil, that I was put through some devilish frustration in order to finish it. That alone proves that Damico’s latest is well worth struggling with—errr, reading.
And now that that’s out of my system, on to the review! This was my first Gina Damico book, as I have not yet read her Croaked series. I have, however, been following her blog for a couple of years, and I adore her sarcastic and well-timed humor. Hellhole is just like her blog, except there’s a really good story to go along with all the funny moments.
Max Kilgore is a seventeen-year-old self-deprecating geek who lives in the town of Eastville (or “E’ville” for short!) and loves paleontology. His mother has chronic heart failure and spends her days in bed, waiting for the donor heart that could save her life. Max takes care of his mom, goes to school, and works overtime at the Gas Bag convenience store. But one night, after stealing a sparkly bobble-head cat from the Gas Bag as a gift to his mom, Max inadvertently unleashes a devil, who appears in his basement and refuses to leave until Max finds a house for him to live in.
Burgundy Cluttermuck, or “Burg” for short, is an unkempt devil with a penchant for junk food who refuses to wear pants. And he’s here to stay, unless Max can find him a house with a hot tub. Max agrees to the task, but only on the condition that Burg will “fix” his mom’s heart. But you know how deals with the devil turn out, and this story is no exception. With his new friend Lore to help him navigate the murky waters of trying to get rid of a devil, Max sets out to find a suitable house for Burg.
Aside from the humor, I loved the characters of Max and Lore, who are not your typical perfectly beautiful and talented YA characters. Both are flawed in the best ways, and for that reason they will resonate with both male and female readers. At seventeen, Max has never had a girlfriend, and his first tentative steps into romance are sweet and awkward. Lore is a sarcastic gem who turns out to be much smarter than Max, has birthmarks all over her face, and has hair that “looks like a volcano.” But she’s beautiful to Max, and that’s the important part. She works in a craft store called Just Glue It and wields a crow bar that she’s named “Russell Crowbar,” complete with glued-on googly eyes. Lore has some past experience with devils, as Max discovers, which makes her the perfect partner in crime (and yes, I do mean crime!) to help rid Max of his basement-dwelling problem.
I also loved over-the-top Burg, who is just about as lovable as a black widow spider. He’s got some interesting quirks, including the fact that he will only eat food that has been stolen. Burg did start to get on my nerves after a while, since he has a terrible habit of singing TV commercial jingles and using charming phrases like “screw the pooch.” But I supposed that’s the point of a devil, to drive a person crazy!
Damico uses cats in an unusual way, and Max’s cat Ruckus plays an important part in beating the devil. I also loved a twist near the end that has to do with Max’s mom—but I don’t want to spoil anything for you. Damico fills her story with lots of clever twists and turns, and of course, the snappy and very funny dialogue that keeps this story humming. Teens, especially those that don’t easily fit in with the popular crowd, will surely connect with Max and Lore. Lots of fun and heartfelt too, Hellhole is a must read.
Believe it or not, no Nook Colors were destroyed during the writing of this review.
Big thanks to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers, for supplying a review copy! Above quote was taken from an uncorrected proof and may differ in the final version of the book.
And thanks to Audible.com, I have a taste of the audiobook for you! I know lots of you love audiobooks, so please enjoy this clip from Hellhole:
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