Soul Enchilada, by David Macinnis Gill (2009, Greenwillow, YA, 368 pages)
When a demon shows up to repossess the Cadillac young Bug Smoot inherited from her Grandpa, it's just one last straw in the downward spiral her life-- that car is the one thing of value she owns. She had to drop out of school to look after her grandpa (and there went her dream of college basketball). Her job delivering pizza's isn't enough to keep the rent money coming, and she's about to be evicted. And now that the demon has shown up inside the Cadillac, she's late for work, and gets fired.
It's no ordinary demon--it's Beelzebub himself. Turns out her grandpa made a pretty shady deal to get the car, one that involved signing away his soul to the devil. But he was always good at weaseling out of obligations, and now Bug is being asked to pay for the car--with her own soul.
Fortunately, Pesto, the cute Mexican boy at the car wash (the Cadillac got slimmed with demonic egg stuff during the repossession process) has ties to the local branch of the demon control folks (the International Supernatural Immigration Service). He's able to hook her up with a good lawyer, who's dealt with the devil before, but this particular contract is a sticky one, and Beelzebub's evil plans don't stop with Bug. Her soul is just a snack, a "soul enchilada," as it were, an appetizer on the demon's menu. The main course being evil world domination.
Can Bug use her skills at pizza delivery and basketball (and her native smarts) to thwart him? Fortunately, she's not as alone as she thinks she is; turns out Pesto isn't the only one on her side (although she sure likes having him there....)
Although it's a dark book, in as much as it is a litany of troubles for poor Bug (short for Jitterbug; her real name is Eunice), it's not a dark book in feel. It's fun (and funny), and snappy as all get out. The plot unfolds very nicely. It sets up the impossible situation, and allows Bug to scramble her way out of it in a believably complicated manner-- one that doesn't involve the urban fantasy tropes of the kickass heroine. Sure, Bugs is tough, but not in a preternaturally skilled with weapons/paranormal powers kind of way. And Pesto, although part of the demonic control and disposal organization, is likewise just a normal guy with an interesting side job. The romantic attraction between Bug and Pesto is understated, but serves as a pleasant diversion.
Bug is a strong and spunky narrator, half African American, half Hispanic. Her character comes through loud and clear. She doesn't pussyfoot around her thoughts, contemplating, for instance, "nailing a demon's ass," but steers clear of hardcore profanity. My one initial trouble with her voice was her grammar--phrases like "there wasn't no way" jarred at first, but by the end of the book I was so absorbed I no longer noticed.Here's a scene with Bug, her lawyer, and Pesto:
"Think, Miss Smoot. What do you do best?" she [the lawyer] said.
Pesto cleared his throat. "Dude, what do you spend all of your time doing? Hint, hint. Car. Hint, hint."
"Driving," I said, not appreciating his tone. "Delivering pizzas. That's about all I can do."
"Pizzas?" she said.
"I am the bomb when it comes to delivering pies. Ask my asshole former boss, Vinnie."
"Pizza. It's unorthodox, but Mr. Scratch likes a challenge." She got up, showing us the door. "I'll contact his attorneys, and we'll negotiate." (page 187)
In short- Soul Enchilada is smart, fun, and fast!
Here are other reviews, at A Chair, a Fireplace, and a Tea Cozy, For the Love of YA, and at Book Aunt (scoll down), and here's an interview with the author at Cynsations.