My Best Friend’s Exorcism by Grady Hendrix
Adult – Contemporary
Published May 17th 2016 by Quirk Books
I loved this book way more than I care to admit or even thought I would. I consider it the equivalent of the Halloween Lifetime movies, in a good way. The blurb calls this “Heathers meets the Exorcist,” and I completely love that take because it’s also true. Really it’s if Heather Chandler was just possessed instead of being an awful person.
The story follows the lives of Abby and Gretchen who have been inseparable since the 5th grade when they bonded over their shared love of E.T and roller-skating parties. One night at a friend’s lake house, Gretchen has a bad reaction to LSD and disappears overnight. When Abby finds her in the morning Gretchen begins to act strange. As the weeks go on, the strange occurrences and Gretchen’s behavior start to hit extremes with manipulation and destructive habits. Gretchen is hellbent on destroying the people around her and Abby realizes there is only one explanation: Gretchen must be possessed. When no one believes Abby’s truth, she joins some unlikely allies and embarks on her quest to save Gretchen.
First off, this book has 80s references galore. The story doesn’t necessarily rely on the references but they a part of the story. I found them to be a lot of fun but I can see how they can grate on some people. Now that that’s out of the way, this isn’t so much about possession horror as it is about teenage girls and the power of female friendships in their lives to be either amazing or truly terrifying. I actually loved this about the book because the friendship was given just as much weight as the horror exorcism and I loved reading about the history of the girl’s friendship. Abby never gave up on Gretchen and it was incredibly touching and a thoughtful look about the bonds of friendship, even when you’re not friends.
For me, the book was very clearly split into two parts: Gretchen doing all of these awful and manipulative things and then Abby realizing that the only explanation is that the devil is inside of Gretchen, obviously. What bothered me the most about the story was how predictable some of Gretchen’s manipulations were and how Abby just kept setting herself up for it. I spent way more time than I care to admit internally screaming for Abby to get it together.
Overall this book isn’t as much about the devil as it is about changing friendships and how just because they evolve it doesn’t make them any less true. I don’t want to spoil anything but I loved the ending. It focused more on the emotional aftermath of the exorcism on their friendship than on either of them separately because they are never really viewed separately throughout the novel. They are friends first and foremost and their friendship needed to react to this damage.
“They weren’t perfect. They didn’t always get along. They screwed up. They acted like assholes. They fought, they fell out, they patched things up, they drove each other crazy, and they didn’t make it to Halley’s comet. But they tried.”
Overall, I loved this book. I found it extremely easy to suspend disbelief enough for this b-horror flick to come to life in my mind and I absolutely loved that. Maybe one day I’ll reread it. It was definitely a fun read but I’ll probably be more likely to buy it and put it on my shelf because the cover is so fun.