Seventh-grader Gabe is in a world of trouble after he purchases a bottle that he’s told contains an imp.
At first it seems like a great deal. The imp will fulfill his every wish, but the Devil, Gabe discovers, is in the details. He may win by getting his wish, but someone else will, in turn, have to lose. Gabe’s family is down on their luck since his dad lost his job. He wishes for his father to be rehired, and he is—but another worthy professor gets fired instead. More frightening: He wishes for a Ferrari and finds out the previous owner had to die so his father could inherit it. The bottle throws him together with hilariously snarky neighbor Joanna, whose mother is dying of cancer. But by the time Gabe realizes what a wish could gain for Joanna, he’s already, perhaps reluctantly, sold the bottle. The rules (if eccentric) are rigid. The bottle can be sold but always for less than its purchase price. When the selling price finally drops to a penny, the Devil will take the unlucky owner’s soul. Not surprisingly, the little bottle becomes increasingly burdensome. Lively, over-the-top characterizations and a heavy use of foreshadowing draw readers into this brisk, suspenseful, and highly imaginative tale. Grimly’s surreal illustrations, which depict a white primary cast, are a delicious accompaniment.
Exciting and irresistible, this effort casts a spell. (Fantasy. 10-14)