Posts Tagged ‘Grady Hendrix’

(WARNING: Light spoilers ahead. You’ve been warned)

I’ve heard this book mentioned so many times in one of my Facebook groups. And when I heard earlier this year that a movie adaptation being made, I knew I would read it eventually. I downloaded the audio book from Audible and started listening over ParaPsyCon weekend. And I can see why it’s been mentioned so much.

Also, don’t let the goofy, Goosebumps-esque title fool you. This is a straight up horror story.

My Best Friend’s Exorcism chronicles the friendship of Abby Rivers and Gretchen Lang, two girls of very different backgrounds growing up in the 1980s. During their sophomore year, after a night of partying, Gretchen’s personality and health takes a change. Abby, frightened and confused, worries about what is happening to her best friend. Is it drugs? Mental illness? Or something else? Something very evil and dark? Something that has a dark purpose for Gretchen, and for everyone else.

Damn! What a horror novel! And definitely up there with Stranger Things when it comes to decent 80s nostalgia stories.

The strongest point of this novel is definitely the relationship between Abby and Gretchen. You see how it first formed during Abby’s tenth birthday party, the ups-and-downs of the early teen years, and finally into high school, when both girls are at the height of popularity but also at their closest. Like it says in the opening, they are friends when the word can draw blood. And even before anything scary happens, the strong phrases and emotional writing centered around their relationship is enough to engross the reader.

And that helps pack a huge punch when things start getting dark. You feel Abby’s concern as she notices Gretchen’s condition change and deteriorate. And as things continue to get worse, you really start to worry. Not just for Gretchen, but for Abby, who becomes almost obsessed with Gretchen’s condition.

Speaking of which, you’re just as confused as you are worried for Gretchen. There’s a lot of ambiguity around what’s causing all these changes, and it doesn’t really get resolved until close to the end of the book. Even when it starts throwing clues about what actually causes the change, there’s enough red herrings left to confuse you.

The scares are decent, as well. There are plenty of scenes that made me cringe while listening. Scarier than the horror, however, is the terror of growing up and of interacting with others. Abby learns throughout the novel just how difficult the real world is, as well as how little help adults can be. And then, during a particularly bad section of the novel, Abby finds herself socially isolated and it’s hard to listen to. Even curmudgeons hate to be isolated from the rest of the world, so it’s hard for Abby. And for us, the reader.

I also liked how the novel approached the topic of exorcism and divine power. It was a nice twist on an old trope, and not just for being outside the Roman Catholic tradition (do you know how rare that is in and of itself?).

And as for 80s references, they are everywhere and they are neither excessive nor done tastelessly.

If there are a few things I can criticize, I thought the opening chapter was a bit of a fake out. And then there were some things about the denouement I wish had been different.

Still, I did enjoy this novel. On a scale of 1 to 5, My Best Friend’s Exorcism by Grady Hendrix earns a solid 5. A dark and heart wrenching slow burn which will get you right in the feels, as well as the 80s nostalgia. I look forward to seeing how the movie adapts the novel, as well as reading Grady Hendrix’s other work (I just acquired his original novel Horrorstor). And in the meantime, I hope you’ll give it a read as well.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. If nothing occurs between now and Friday, I’ll be back with a review of the next Conjuring film (lot of exorcism-themed stuff lately, isn’t there?). So until next time, pleasant nightmares!