Book/Author: My Best Friend’s Exorcism by Grady Hendrix (2016)
Reviewer: Paige Richards
Age/Genre: YA – Adult
Preferred Reading Environment: Low-lit room with some spooky vibes. Maybe a porch in the fall.
Reading Accoutrements: A blanket to hide under during the scary parts. A bowl of popcorn. Some hot apple cider. Or maybe lean into the ‘80s thing with a side-ponytail and a ripped jean jacket.
Content Notes: Brief animal killing towards the end. Implied Sexual assault.
Hello fellow reader, let me tell you something about myself. I am an easy sell for some good cover art. I was immediately drawn to Grady Hendrix’s book My Best Friend’s Exorcism because the cover art is most excellent. Specifically, the paperback book’s cover art, which isn’t the same as the hardcover, is the one that is so incredible. So let’s pretend we live in a world where the paperback is the only one that exists. If you are not a person so easily swooned by cover art, I have good news, this book also contains humor, spookiness, best friends and demons!
My Best Friend’s Exorcism, is described on the back sleeve as “… an unholy hybrid of Beaches and The Exorcist.” Set in the ‘80s, two inseparable best friends deal with the biggest problem they may ever face, a demonic possession. What’s great about this book is that it has so much heart. It’s funny, it’s dark and it’s a total ‘80s throwback. Play that nostalgia card!
This book has some really incredible characters. They are extremely easy to connect with and believable in their journeys. We start off our story with a group of girls, specifically Abby and Gretchen, long time friends, with a typical “meet-cute.” Can you have a meet-cute for a non-romantic coupling of people? Regardless, it happened, set at a roller rink, dressed in E.T. references, and soundtracked by iconic song lyrics. Our protagonist, Abby, is so relatable: working a shit job trying to pay for the things she needs to be cool, using all the magazine-advertised products to fight the acne on her face, and trying to stay close and relevant to her rich friend Gretchen. The rich friend/poor friend dynamic is so often told that it could easily become boring. What I appreciate in Hendrix’s writing is that during the times where Abby and Gretchen are together it’s not a divider for them, and we can really focus on the bond between the two of them. The division occurs in Abby’s self criticism. This helps set up a thread of self-doubt throughout this whole book, leading to great struggle.
I think back to my time in early highschool and the girls we all used to know. Unfortunately, betrayal, tears, and isolation is not an uncommon wave of experiences for teens to feel during those times of growth and axe body spray; the movie Mean Girls is practically a case study on the majority of highschool experiences. Wouldn’t it be easier to assume that the person who I thought I was friends with was possessed, rather than that she was just talking about me behind my back? Wouldn’t I prefer to think a demon was the one convincing my friend to call me fat and not a person I once trusted? This is why this book is so good; the things that Abby begins to deal with after Gretchen’s assumed possession are so similar to what “mean girls” do to one another that even the reader is questioning if we believe that Gretchen is possessed. Maybe Gretchen is mad at Abby and reacting as a teen girl would stereotypically react? Abby is on a journey to find some kind of confidence in herself and trust that she truly knows Gretchen. She has to convince herself that Gretchen is possessed,that Abby is not just crazy and she has to do everything she can to get her friend back.
“Are you all right?” Abby asked.
Gretchen wrinkled her brow.
“Why wouldn’t I be?” She asked.
“All that stuff,” Abby said. “Last week? Everything that was going on?”
Gretchen raised an eyebrow and gave a half smile.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she said. “I’m fine. But maybe something’s wrong with you?”
Now, for all you horror fans, so far this review has set the book up to sound very sentimental (aka the Beaches half of this book). Don’t worry, we really kick into The Exorcist portion of this book with a fury. It gets bloody, it gets creepy, and (I guess, maybe potentially a spoiler?) Abby is left to fight that punk-ass demon who is inside of her BFF Gretchen. Abby has spent the first half of the book isolated; she’s been manipulated, she’s pissed and pulling out all the big guns and yet she’s still just one highschool sophomore.
Now, without stepping too far into spoiler territory, here’s why I recommend this book to most people I talk to: I think there’s a universal story in here about finding who you are, fighting for what’s important to you, and then holding strong to your truth. This book inspires me to look at my crew and feel confident that I would go toe-to-toe with a demon for any of them, and appreciate the hell out of the fact that I have those people.
Let me know if you read this book! There are so many gold nuggets and references that I left out so the reader can fall upon them themselves. If you know of any other books that have girls, demons, and friendship, share those deets with me, I’d love to dive into another one.