MY BEST FRIEND’S EXORCISM
Author: Grady Hendrix
2016. Horror. US.
Editorial: Quirk Books
Abby and Gretchen have been the best friends in the world since they were ten and nobody went to Abby’s ten birthday. Their friendship has been a ride through a roller coaster of fun, arguments and great moments. Six years later, after they go camping at the house of one of their friends everything changes. The all-American beauty of Gretchen starts to vanish while she becomes mean and cruel. Abby knows that something strange is happening with her friend and that only she can help her. Otherwise, they won’t make it to watch the Halley comet together.
Grady Hendrix became a notorious author when he published his non-fiction masterpiece Paperbacks from Hell (Quirk Books, 2017). The definitive guide through the seventies and eighties horror paperbacks that ruled the era. This helped him to establish himself as an authority in horror literature but also shows us that Hendrix is an expert on that period of horror. This explains why he captures so well the atmosphere of the decade on My Best Friend’s Exorcism.
My Best Friend’s Exorcism is his second novel after the also successful, and great novel, Horrorstör. Situated in the eighties, begins around 1982, and ends towards the end of the decade. There are several concepts that this novel addresses and we will talk about them in this review.
From this point the review will include some minor spoilers. I’ll try to avoid giving the important parts of the story but something might escape.
The Spirit of the Eighties
One of the biggest successes of My Best Friend’s Exorcism is the way in which it captures the essence of the eighties. Abigail, for instance, is a huge fan of E.T. and is Gretchen’s reaction to the movie what tells her that they can be really good friends. The music also has a great impact on the novel, if novels can have soundtracks, and of course, they do, this is one of the greatest ones, something that is kind of a mark in Hendrix’s work, We Sold Our Souls is superb in that sense.
Hendrix recreates the decade in a powerful and vivid way, the imaginary, the costumes, the major events, everything has a vibe that authors and directors seem to seek desperately nowadays and seldom find.
Not a typical possession story
This is not a novel about possessions, it has a demonic possession but it is incidental, this novel could have words almost as well with a drug addiction plot or a gangs plot. The real subject of the novel is the power of friendship and the struggle that represents the teenage years for a person, especially for a girl.
The real battle of Abby and Gretchen is not against the devil, is against all the factors that threaten their friendship and a story of how far would a girl go to save her best friend and herself. Abby is a girl that not only struggles to save her friend, also fights against all the problems of her family, and herself that are continuously threatening her with becoming an outcast that’s why saving Gretchen becomes even more important.
The first pro of the novel is that it is not condescending. The novel speaks about teen girls but does it with respect and maturity. We have common tropes, for sure, as the courage towards the parents that doesn’t understand them, but who didn’t feel that way at sixteen.
The second pro is the characters. Hendrix writes powerful characters, each with his own voice, personality, and traits, this gives them authenticity, and they don’t feel like images on a page, they feel like real people living a story. When Abby watches Gretchen in the darkness of a movie theater to see if she will cry with E.T. you can feel it, and understand it.
The third pro is the lack of condescending. One of the recurrent problems with young fiction is that authors have forgotten how life is when you are sixteen and create cartoons instead of characters. Hendrix remembers it and knows very well how to translate it to the page.
There are only two minor cons. The first one is that I would´ve liked to know a little more about the demon, perhaps I am morbid but a scene with what actually happens in the forest would’ve been great.
The second con is that some storylines are abandoned too soon or explored only superficially. This is not really important, hey, maybe is I wanting one hundred more pages
I won’t say how the story ends because I don’t want to spoil anything, this is a book that you really should read, so, the biggest your innocence at the ending the better. I can only say that this is one of the most beautiful endings, yes that’s possible in horror that I have ever read. The epilogue of the novel is so powerful that it could have been a separate novel if Hendrix wanted it. So, go grab it and enjoy it!
My Best Friend’s Exorcism is one of those rare novels that are special. Definitely a must read that for me has a score of a solid 85.