Published by Quirk Books on May 17, 2016
Genres: Coming of Age, Fiction, Horror, Supernatural, Thrillers
Full of ‘80s nostalgia and supernatural hijinks, Grady Hendrix’s My Best Friend’s Exorcism is an excellent, spooky read. The story focuses on the friendship of high school sophomores Abby and Gretchen. After Gretchen spends a night lost in the woods at a sleepover, her personality and behavior drastically change. Abby investigates, with the help of a bodybuilder exorcist, to determine whether her friend has become demonically possessed.
Normally I don’t comment on a book’s cover in my reviews, but this book looks awesome. My edition is designed to look like a VHS box, with a classic ‘80s horror movie poster on the front. The ‘80s references are non-stop in this book. Every chapter is titled with the name of a classic ‘80s song. I found Spotify playlists that compile all the songs mentioned in the book, which made for a fun reading soundtrack. My favorite horror element in the novel was the well written body horror. My favorite scene, involving the character of Margaret plus oodles of worms, was outstandingly disgusting. There is a group of bodybuilding brothers that speak and perform at high schools to spread Christianity (one of the quirkier additions to the story). One of the brothers also happens to be an amateur exorcist that helps Gretchen later in the novel. The heart of the story is the friendship of Gretchen and Abby. Their love for each other is a powerful force in the book and comes into play at the novel’s conclusion. Like many of these high school, supernatural stories, I wish the parents were less absent and clueless. I also wish that Hendrix had broken more of the typical demonic possession tropes in this book, but what he has created is well done.
There are many instances of characters saying problematic, homophobic, or racist things in this book. Memorably, for spirit week the high school has a slave day where “slave” students must serve their “masters” for the school day (WTF). I went to google and was horrified to learn that this was a legitimate thing that used to happen in some US schools. I believe that Hendrix included these problematic moments intentionally, to critique the past. While the book celebrates the ‘80s, Hendrix does not shy from showing some of the era’s flaws.
I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a Halloween read that isn’t too intense. Fans of Stranger Things, Buffy the Vampire Slayer or ‘80s movies and music will find a lot to enjoy. I’m looking forward to reading more of Hendrix’s horror novels in the future.