Title: My Best Friend’s Exorcism by Grady Hendrix
Publisher: Quirk Books
Genre: Historical (80s), Horror, Supernatural
Length: 337 pages
Book Rating: B
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley
A heartwarming story of friendship and demonic possession. The year is 1988. High school sophomores Abby and Gretchen have been best friends since fourth grade. But after an evening of skinny-dipping goes disastrously wrong, Gretchen begins to act…different. She’s moody. She’s irritable. And bizarre incidents keep happening whenever she’s nearby. Abby’s investigation leads her to some startling discoveries—and by the time their story reaches its terrifying conclusion, the fate of Abby and Gretchen will be determined by a single question: Is their friendship powerful enough to beat the devil? Like an unholy hybrid of Beaches and The Exorcist, My Best Friend’s Exorcism blends teen angst, adolescent drama, unspeakable horrors, and a mix of ’80s pop songs into a pulse-pounding supernatural thriller.
My Best Friend’s Exorcism by Grady Hendrix is a spellbinding and suspenseful novel about a friendship that is strong enough to withstand just about anything, including demonic possession.
Despite coming from completely different backgrounds, Abby Rivers and Gretchen Lang have been close friends since the fourth grade. Abby’s family has struggled financially ever since her father went on strike during the air traffic controller strike in the early ’80s while Gretchen’s family is wealthy. Abby is on her own a lot but Gretchen’s über religious parents closely monitors her activities. Despite a few fights along the way, their friendship is closer than ever when, after experimenting with LSD one evening, Gretchen disappears overnight and although she returns the next morning, she soon begins acting very strangely. Abby knows something is very wrong with her friend, but cracks soon begin to appear in their relationship when Gretchen’s parents blame Abby for the changes in their daughter’s behavior.
The first half of the story follows Abby and Gretchen’s friendship from its inception through junior high. Abby is well aware of the socioeconomic differences between them and because of the girls’ close friendship, she included in several of the Lang family vacations. Since Abby’s family is less strict than hers, Gretchen takes full advantage when she is away from her parents’ watchful eyes to experience the movies, TV shows and music that are popular in the 80s. In junior high, Abby is shocked and stunned by Gretchen’s mom’s extreme reaction when she catches her daughter emulating a popular musician of the day.
By their sophomore year, Abby is well aware of the risk Gretchen is taking as they begin pushing the boundaries as they while away their summer days drinking and sunbathing with their friends. With the rest of the group eager to experiment with LSD, Gretchen reluctantly agrees to join in only after Abby promises to take care of her. When the girls are disappointed their “trip” never materializes, they decide to go swimming late at night but Gretchen quickly disappears in the surrounding woods. Abby refuses to leave without trying to find her, but after she stumbles across a ramshackle building, she is too frightened to continue her search. When Gretchen returns relatively unharmed the next morning, Abby drops her off at home then goes about her day. However, trouble begins later that evening when Gretchen begins experiencing terrifying and unexplainable phenomena.
As Gretchen’s behavior begins to alienate her classmates and her other friends, Abby desperately tries to help her. With each horrifying incident, the gulf widens between the girls but Abby refuses to give up trying to understand what is happening. Her appeals to the adults around her fall on deaf ears and as the situation continues to escalate, Gretchen’s parents turn on Abby. Even when Gretchen appears to have finally recovered for her ordeal, Abby remains suspicious but no one believes her when she tries to convince them something is gravely wrong. As the situation continues to deteriorate, Abby is ostracized by her friends and classmates but she refuses to stop trying to uncover the truth about what is wrong with Gretchen.
My Best Friend’s Exorcism is a compelling novel that is takes a rather tongue in cheek approach to demonic possession. This aspect of the storyline is very well written and while it is not overly scary, it still manages to be a quite creepy. It is not until the exorcism takes place that the scenes become graphic and even then, Grady Hendrix takes a very unorthodox approach to casting out Gretchen’s demon. A highly unique and extremely engaging novel that horror fans are sure to enjoy.