Review: Hellhole by Gina Damico

Wednesday, January 7, 2015
Title: Hellhole
Author: Gina Damico
Genre: paranormal, fantasy
Series: none
Pages: 352
Published: January 7, 2015
Source: Publisher via Netgalley
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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.

Update: We are so happy to be able to provide a special treat for our readers, the first 30 minutes of the audiobook version, thanks to Esther at Audible. We hope hearing Macleod Andrews doing the voice of a contraband, bobblehead cat will convince you that you need Gina Damico in your life.

Hellhole is not Croak.

I know, I’m disappointed too. Gina Damico’s last series was a comedic supernatural masterpiece, so it’s only natural for people to compare her newest book to it. And while there are similarities in writing, Max isn’t Lex. E-town isn’t Croak. And Burg isn’t like anyone you’ve ever read.

"Oh. I'm Satan. ... Well I'm a Satan. There are six hundred and sixty-six of us, not that anyone's counting. ... The name is Burgundy Cluttermuck, devil-at-large. I do bachelorette parties and retirement galas, but NO MORE children's birthdays."

Burg, Associate Imp of Salty Snacks and sort of like a cruder Betelgeuse, is able to cross over from hell when Max Kilgore, a teen boy who is the antithesis of his name, steals a bobblehead cat for his bed-ridden, dying mother, whose only joys in life come from cheap tchotchkes and reality tv. Do you need happy books? You might want to turn back now, because Hellhole, like Damico’s other books, is a very dark story.

It's also a pretty funny one. Max is a total social moron, frequently engaging strange women in discourse about veal, when he can muster a verbal response to the opposite sex at all. He lives for crossword puzzles, archeology, and Madden and has a giant metal whale that lives in his backyard. Even as a dork myself, I found I had a deep-seated desire to give the kid a wedgie.

Max is offset by Lore, a devil worshiper in bedazzled sweaters, who can’t hide her disdain for the entirety of the human race. Lore’s actually an ex-devil worshiper, having had her own run-in with one of Burg’s compatriots last year. Still, in a small town, she’s the best advice Max is going to find, and she allows herself to be roped into trying to banish the imp.

There are a lot of funny moments, but I’m not in love with the story’s end. I found it rushed and I hadn’t emotionally connected enough with Max to agree that the costs were justified. The story seemed to be heading for redemption for Burg, before swinging back to, “oh wait, demon. Definitely evil.” It’s difficult because all of my favorite scenes, (drunk Project Runway, dinner with mom,) are of Burg being a lovable scamp, so for him to massacre a lot of people? It wasn’t satisfying.

The romance did work for me. Max and Lore play off each other extremely well. I adored the epilogue, especially the final line, which brought me back around on the book as a whole. In the end, Hellhole is dark, funny, and unique. It’s not destined to be an all time favorite, but you want to read it anyway.

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