Despite coming from wildly divergent 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 has always been well-off. Their parents’ attitudes towards them differ as well: Abby is fairly independent and left to her own devices most of the time, while Gretchen’s Mom and Dad are extremely religious and closely monitor her day-to-day activities. Despite a few fights along the way, the girls’ friendship is closer than ever when, after experimenting with LSD one evening, Gretchen disappears overnight and returns the next morning 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. As Gretchen’s condition continues to degenerate and her actions become more and more extreme, Abby begins to wonder: is this her friend’s way of rebelling against her strict upbringing? Is it mental illness? Or maybe, just maybe, is it demonic possession?
My Best Friend’s Exorcism is set in the late 80s, and the references to television shows, movies, fashion, etc., really help sell the time-period to the reader. Each chapter’s title is taken from a popular song or lyric of that era (“Don’t You Forget About Me”, “We Got The Beat”, “Sunday Bloody Sunday”, and so on) and is usually pertinent to the events related in that particular section. Author Grady Hendrix perfectly captures the angsty, hormone-riddled interactions between the high school students and their attitudes and reactions are entirely plausible and genuine. Although the blurb on the back cover of the book makes My Best Friend’s Exorcism sound a bit tame and adolescent, it definitely isn’t. Instead, it’s a graphic, disturbing adult horror novel that, while being totally in love with the 80’s, doesn’t skip on the gore or chills. There are scenes here that are truly disturbing, and others that are incredibly touching. You root for the main characters, and you fear for what may happen to them. Grady Hendrix has crafted a superb horror novel that is both funny and frightening; it contains the perfect balance of emotions, so that you’re never quite sure what is going to happen next. Also adding to the fun is the packaging of the book: it’s set up to resemble a yearbook and as such, the inside of the cover is decorated with the typical signatures you’d find in a high school yearbook. It’s interesting, especially if you go back and re-read them after finishing the book – particularly one in the back that features a doodle of an animal. Recommended for those seeking some chills centered on a believable female friendship, or for anyone nostalgic for the pop culture of the 1980s.
By Chris Fox
Reference Assistant at May Memorial Library