Review: Hellhole by Gina Damico

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Hellhole by Gina DamicoHellhole by Gina Damico
Published by Houghton Mifflin Books for Children on January 6, 2015
Genres: Humor, Paranormal
Pages: 352
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
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three-half-stars

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. Gina Damico, author of the Croak series, once again delivers all the horror, hilarity, and high-stakes drama that any kid in high school or hell could ever handle.

For those who are not aware, Gina Damico writes some of the funniest and darkest YA novels today. If you have not read the Croak trilogy, you need to consider your priorities, because those books are so fucking amazing. My expectations for Hellhole were sky high, because the Croak books are among my top favorites ever. A bit sadly, Hellhole won’t be joining them on my eternal favorites list, but it’s still hilarious and dark and very Gina Damico.

Damico’s humor is just so great. I think her style will appeal to those who enjoy Bryan Fuller shows (Wonderfalls, Pushing Daisies, Dead Like Me, Hannibal) or similar off-kilter, darkly comedic programming. Though I didn’t like Hellhole as much as Croak, the humor is still most definitely on point. Damico’s creative swears are still present, as are the snide pop culture reference, blissful nerdiness, and friendly misanthropy. I’m sort of repeating myself here, but seriously if you love dark humor and you’re not reading Damico’s books, WHAT ARE YOU DOING WITH YOUR LIFE?

The big difference with Hellhole is that I simply didn’t emotionally bond with Max and the rest of the cast the same way I did with the people in Croak. Max is my sort of kid, in that he’s a total nerd. He’s kind of a young Ross Geller, bad hair and all, given his obsession with paleontology and crosswords. Like teenage Ross, he’s the opposite of smooth, despite having popular Audie rooting for him to find a girlfriend. Max’s platonic friendship with Audie is fabulous, though her role in the book is too minimal for me to really have a handle on her as a character.

Max’s mother is going to die sometime soon if she doesn’t get a heart transplant. Max works really hard to hold the household together, since his mom can no longer do that. Their relationship is the most touching aspect for me. They truly love one another and that’s so obvious, even though she isn’t able to really take care of him at any point. The sheer amount he’s willing to do to try to help her shows what a wonderful mother she’s been to him all his life. They’re happy together, despite the mother’s illness and their poverty. Their movie nights to watch romantic comedies or musicals are just the best.

Though Max has always been a fearful kid, he risks his job to steal an ugly bobble head cat for his mother, who greatly appreciates weird junk like that. He couldn’t afford it and knew she’d love it. And she did. Only the bobble-head came with a free gift with theft: satan, who insists on residing in Max’s basement. Now, he’s just one of many but Burg is still an evil dude who could kill anyone around Max instantly. Perhaps unwisely, he makes a deal with the devil for his mother’s life and suddenly the cat was just the beginning to his criminal career.

One thing that I love about Damico’s books is how dark they get. Though not as dark as the Croak trilogy ultimately got, I was once again thrown by the humor into expecting something fairly light. It both is and it isn’t. Damico’s very good at doing things I really don’t expect her to do to the characters. Hellhole is one of those novels where even the protagonists aren’t going to come out looking too good.

Finally, if you’re a cat lover, there’s something special in here for you. Aside from the bobble-head, Max and his Mom have an ill-tempered cat. The great thing is that this house cat is the one thing that Burg fears. Even devils think that cats are too evil to be reckoned with. This is precisely why cats are so cute. I think I’m going to go snuggle mine now, as I wait for the time until Damico has another book coming out.

Favorite Quote:

“So here I am. Just a girl standing in front of a boy, asking him to accept her devil-expelling assistance.”

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

 gif sabrina the teenage witch salem laughing

10 responses to “Review: Hellhole by Gina Damico”

  1. lol, I was wondering when you’d realize you forgot to add the rating.

    I think the use of cats in this book is why I went with 4.5 stars because NO ONE HAS EVER USED A CAT BETTER IN A NOVEL EVER. As much as I loved this book (I daresay I enjoyed it more than the Croak trilogy, which only picked up for me at the very end), I feel you on Max. If I were going to cast him for a movie, he’d be Michael Cera. I don’t care what Max ACTUALLY looks like; he’s such a Michael Cera character.

    ” if you love dark humor and you’re not reading Damico’s books, WHAT ARE YOU DOING WITH YOUR LIFE?” is the best sentence of your whole review and would have had me hooked if I weren’t already snorting Damico crack right there with you. 😀 Despite the running gag of Driggs not being able to get Lex’s bra off not being here (obvi), this book is pretty damn funny. So much agreement with all your review!

    SALEM GIF. Everything wins. CATS ARE THE OVERLORDS.

    • Christina Franke says:

      Yeahhhh, Debby let me know, so I added it. *sighs* It’s been months since I forgot. I usually put the rating on first, but sometimes I wait to see how the review shakes out and then this happens.

      The cats stuff is brilliant and her humor is on point, but yeahhh I can see Michael Cera in the role. The thing is that I just didn’t give a shit about his character. Like, if the devils won, I’d just sort of be like womp womp.

      They’re just not the Croak people, which sads. Of course, we know where the Croak people are and they were not available for a new series. :-p

      EVERYONE RESPECT CATS. It’s good to know I’m safe from devils, because Percy would definitely have attacked Burg the moment he moved in. Good kitty.

  2. Meg says:

    SO EXCITED OBVS SO EXCITED YES YES YES
    Meg recently posted…Buzz Worthy News: Kate’s Birthday Edition December 6, 2014My Profile

  3. Gillian says:

    OH, I VERY VERY WANT THIS.
    Gillian recently posted…Top Ten New-to-Me Authors I Read In 2014My Profile

  4. I guess I have been living under a rock because I’ve never even heard of Gina Damico before. I am heading over to Goodreads to investigate this further.

    I am also noting that the author seems to be a Nothing Hill fan, big clue in the quote there 😉
    Mari – Escape In A Book recently posted…Book shopping can cure mood swings – graphic novelsMy Profile

  5. Soma Rostam says:

    This sounds like an interesting book
    I like the cover a lot though
    GREAT review
    Your reader,
    Soma R.
    Soma Rostam recently posted…Twelve Days of New Adult Giveaway HopMy Profile

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