• HellholeAuthor: Gina Damico
  • Performed by MacLeod Andrews
  • Published: Audible Studios; released January 2015
  • Category: Young Adult, Sci-Fi, Fantasy
  • four-half-stars

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.

Max is the quintessential awkward teen who has zero luck with girls, loves crosswords and digging for fossils on Ugly Hill. He cares for his sick mother who’s waiting for a heart transplant as well as attending school and working long hours at a convenience store. One day at work he steals a cat statue for his mother, who loves sparkly junk. He can’t afford to buy it but wants to give his mother something he knows she’ll appreciate. Max is terrified the security camera will pick up his theft but little does he know getting caught is the least of his worries.

Max had been up on Ugly Hill hundreds of times, alone and in the dark, but this was the first time he’d ever been truly scared. “What the hell?” his voice quivered. Just then an air pulse sent up a small fleck of ash – black, light as air, a gothic snowflake. It floated out of the hole, then descended and landed on the back of Max’s hand. He tried to wipe it off, but all that did was create a black smear across his skin.

Max’s problems begin in earnest when he unwittingly releases one of the 666 Satans from hell during a dig for fossils on Ugly Hill. Burgundy Cluttermuck, or Burg as he prefers to be known, takes up residence in Max’s basement. Now he’s above ground he’s here to stay and Max has to keep him happy and supplied with stolen junk food, beer and video games…or else! After several unsuccessful attempts to get rid of his houseguest, Max and Burg strike a bargain. Max agrees to find Burg a house with a hot tub, plus a string of other requirements, and Burg promises he’ll cure Max’s mom. But trying to bargain with a devil is not a wise move and one that’s more than likely not to end well. 

Max enlists the help of new friend, Lore, who had a similar experience the previous year, and together they try to rid Max of his problematic ‘guest’, with help from Max’s cat, Ruckus, who plays an unusual part in the drama.

This is an entertaining, offbeat and comedic story. Very clever too, even though it does have its heavy moments. The humour for the most part is quite dark but nevertheless laugh out loud in places, due in no small part to MacLeod Andrews’ superb narration and wonderful characterisations of Max and Burg, among others.

Burg is loud, brash and cunningly manipulative, knowing exactly how to get Max to do his bidding. Max’s intentions are all good but every action taken has consequences, which Max realises too late. A cautionary tale of how one small error of judgement can snowball into a gigantic and terrible predicament in no time.

There’s a wealth of unique and individual characters including Max’s best friend, Audie, his boss at the convenience store, Stavroula, and Lore, with her trusty ‘Russell’ crowbar with its stick-on googly eyes. I love that Max and Lore are not the usual protagonists found in a YA novel. Max has never had a girlfriend, although Audie tries her best to help him out in that area. After a rocky start Max and Lore’s developing relationship is quite touching and the humorous observations and exploration of their characters is enjoyable and extremely well done.

Book links ~ Amazon UK Amazon US

About the author

GDI grew up under four feet of snow in Syracuse, New York. I received a degree in theater and sociology from Boston College, and I have since worked as a tour guide, transcriptionist, theater house manager, scenic artist, movie extra, office troll, retail monkey, yarn hawker and breadmonger. I am the author of the grim-reapers-gone-wild books of the Croak trilogy (Croak, Scorch, and Rogue), published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and the upcoming Hellhole (January 2015). I live in Western Massachusetts with my husband, two cats, one dog, and while I have never visited hell in person, I have spent countless waking hours at the Albany Regional Bus Terminal, which is pretty darn close.

Author links ~ www.ginadami.co, Twitter, Facebook

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