Review: Hellhole by Gina Damico

Publication Date: January 6, 2015
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Reading Level: Young Adult (14+)
Pages: 349 (ARC)
Source: From Publisher For Review
A devil is a bad influence . . .

There was a time when geeky, squeaky-clean Max Kilgore would never lie or steal or even think about murder. Then he accidentally unearths a devil, and Max’s choices are no longer his own. The big red guy has a penchant for couch surfing and junk food—and you should never underestimate evil on a sugar high.

With the help of Lore, a former goth girl who knows a thing or two about the dark side, Max is racing against the clock to get rid of the houseguest from hell before time, and all the Flamin’ Hot Cheetos this side of the fiery abyss, run out.
~*~Lili's Reflections~*~

I am a very huge fan of Gina Damico. Her CROAK series is among my favorite books ever, mostly because if you want dark humor she is the woman to look for. Because of this, I was beyond excited to receive an ARC of Hellhole shortly after BEA. And while I enjoyed this book, it's with a heavy heart that I say I don't think it can truly rival her CROAK series. Still, if you like dark humor and hilarious out-of-this-world scenarios, this is a great book to pick up.

Max Kilgore is a nerd obsessed with dinosaurs and crosswords that was accidentally blessed with the name of a heroic movie star. He's a good kid that sometimes does bad things to help out his mother who is dying of a terrible heart condition, even if that means stealing ugly cat bobble-heads because she hoards weird things. Because of this, he one day came home from school to realize that he got himself stuck with a devil named Burgundy Cluttermuck. Burg sits in his basement eating his snacks, drinking beer, and playing videogames while he forces Max to do his bidding after promising him that he will one day heal his mother. Max literally made a deal with a devil and this entire book is its aftermath. I suppose there's a lesson to be learned here...

Max is an interesting character that is easy to support. He's constantly working at a gas station to help pay the bills and he always has Fridays open to ensure that his mother and him can have their date night making fun of movies and eating extra cheesy pizza that she really shouldn't eat. These scenes are the absolute best, guys. So funny! He likes his dinosaurs, his crosswords, and his hair is forever stuck in the shape of a helmet. With all of this in mind, you would think it would be easy to connect with him, but part of the reason I think this book can't rival Damico's CROAK series is because I cannot connect with him at all. It's like there's a wall between us and I can admire him from afar, but I can't bring myself to feel for him anything other than a general interest in his story. The same goes for all other characters, though I really liked how unique his best friend Audie was, and how her boyfriend, Wall, wasn't the stereotypical jock. Then there's Lore. Like Max, I couldn't really connect to her, but she certainly stands apart from all the rest. An interesting and weird love interest, but a perfect one for Max. I was rooting for them through it all, and that definitely counts for something.

In order to read this book, one must be willing to suspend belief a lot of the time. I mean, it's a fantasy, so the whole devil thing is obviously not realistic, but one does have to be willing to forget about certain things, like how a seventeen year old girl can calmly dispose of a dead body without batting an eye. And how a boy can, you know, trust a devil and be shocked when he turns out not to be trustworthy because, well, he's a devil. Our main character is really intelligent and nerdy yet he tends to forget to use common sense a lot of the time. Yeah, this is one of those books.

The last thing worth noting is the ending. I both loved it and disliked it. I feel like a lot of questions have been left unanswered and that really bugs me. This is a stand-alone after all, and the story didn't feel at all rushed, so I almost feel jipped because I wasn't informed about the fate of a character or two. However, the actual ending of the story put a smile on my face. This is one of those examples of making the best out of a crappy situation and if anyone knows how to handle themselves against devils, it's definitely Max and Lore. Have I mentioned I love Lore's name? Because I most definitely do.

All in all, a fast-paced and hilarious read perfect for those looking for some dark humor and infinite laughs from a book that proves the fact that cats can save the world. Though it does not properly rival Damico's well loved and amazing CROAK series, this is still a satisfactory read that makes you look forward to what else the Queen of Dark Humor will produce next. As a loyal Damico fan, I am very happy to report that I enjoyed this one as I anxiously await her next work in progress.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go run to the story and buy some Flamin' Hot Cheetos. This book's given me a massive craving!

3.5 stars


FTC Disclaimer: I received no compensation of any kind in exchange for my honest review.

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