cover image Hellhole


Gina Damico. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $17.99 (368p) ISBN 978-0-544-30710-0

In this dark comedy, Damico (the Croak trilogy) shows what happens when a deal with the devil, however reluctant, goes horribly wrong. Seventeen-year-old Max Kilgore indulges in some petty shoplifting and ends up with a velour tracksuit–wearing devil named Burg squatting in his basement, eating junk food and shouting at cable shows. Driven by both self-preservation and desperation, Max agrees to find Burg a place to live if the devil will heal Max’s mother’s bad heart. Max enlists the help of Lore, a classmate who’s had prior experience with devilry, but soon they’re both caught up in an increasingly messy, morally murky situation. Damico’s blend of bleak humor and harsh reality lends itself well to Max’s social awkwardness and Lore’s biting cynicism, while Burg is outrageously appalling (one moment he’s munching on a stick of butter half-naked, the next he’s hurling a fireplace poker at Max’s head). The ending is somewhat rushed and leaves a few loose ends, but this remains a wild and unpredictable cautionary tale about ill-considered bargains and bad decisions. Ages 14–up. Agent: Tina Wexler, ICM. (Jan.)