Hellhole by Gina Damico – Review
In the mood for reading a YA horror comedy that combines hijinks with Hell? You could do a lot worse than check out Hellhole, a standalone novel (no YA trilogies here!) by Gina Damico. Originally published in 2015 in the United States by HMH Books for Young Readers, Hellhole has just been released for UK and international audiences.
The plot: archaeology-loving high schooler Max Kilgore steals a plastic pink kitten. A signature move in anyone’s books, but he also accidentally opens a portal to Hell and allows a demon called Burg to escape. And now this demon needs somewhere to hide. Who’d want a demon as their roommate? Not Max, that’s for sure, yet Burg ends up becoming the literal roommate from Hell, driving Max round the bend with his junk food obsession, lack of manners, and total disregard for personal privacy. Max wants nothing more than to send Burg back to Hell where he belongs, but Burg has a bargaining chip. He can help Max take care of his ill mother… Once Burg starts demanding more than Max is willing to offer, Max teams up with a former demon summoner and goth girl named Lore. Together, they aim to vanquish Burg once and for all.
There are a few things that make Hellhole worth picking up. In a sea of Young Adult trilogies, Hellhole stands out as being a standalone novel with a self-contained plot. Damico ties up all the novel’s loose ends so when the last page of the book comes, the story is satisfyingly complete. Hellhole is highly tongue-in-cheek, with plenty of slapstick humour to keep the reader entertained. While the ending is predictable and Max is a rather forgettable protagonist, supporting characters like Burg, Lore, and Max’s mother combine with the hijinks to carry the story.
If you read Damico’s Croak trilogy and found it lacking, don’t write off Hellhole just yet. Damico has evolved and found her niche in the YA horror comedy genre. Hellhole reads like a Saturday morning cartoon in novel form; plot and character development are minimal, but the situations the characters find themselves struggling to escape from are amusing enough to keep the reader engaged. While the humor is cruder than in Joe Hill’s Horns, fans of the story might enjoy this YA take on accidental demon summoning. Support your local library or independent bookstore or snag a copy from Amazon.