My Best Friend’s Exorcism by Grady Hendrix
Quirk Books, May 2016
Available: Hardcover, Kindle edition
My Best Friend’s Exorcism is set in the 80s, a time of big hair, awesome music, and the Satanic Panic. Abby Rivers and Gretchen Lang have been best friends since they were thrown together at Abby’s tenth birthday party. Now in high school, they are experiencing the awkwardness and discomfort of growing into teenagers, and their friendship is changing.
After a night of dropping acid with a few other friends goes bad, Gretchen goes missing for the entire night. When she reappears the next day, acting strangely, Abby seems to be the only one to notice. As bizarre things start to happen to people, Abby, making her observations in the context of the 1980s fears of demonic possession that could happen to anyone, comes to the conclusion that her best friend must be demonically possessed; that something happened in the woods the night they took LSD. What other option could there be for Gretchen turning on her best friend? Unsurprisingly, no one believes her, except a bodybuilding evangelist who turns out to be fighting his own demons.
The story is narrated by Abby in first person, so we only see her point of view. As a teenager dealing with significant life events, changing hormones, emotional, physical, and psychological challenges, and a brain potentially altered by her experience with LSD, she is not necessarily a reliable narrator. In fact, several adults accuse Abby of being a bad influence on Gretchen, whose behavior changed after the girls’ shared drug experience. Abby’s own behavior is erratic, as well: she plans and executes a midnight break-in at Gretchen’s house. While My Best Friend’s Exorcism could be read as a straightforward tale of demonic possession, it also can be read as an examination of a psychological breakdown. Hendrix has a talent for description: the description of Gretchen’s kitchen during Abby’s break-in as smelling of mold and old food, with temperature so cold she can see her breath, is so specific that it is easy to believe that Abby is giving us an accurate picture of events.
Overall, I think My Best Friend’s Exorcism is a great read. For anyone who grew up in the 80s, especially around the time of the infamous Satanic Panic, this book will bring back memories. One of the best things about this book is the chapter titles: if you guessed that they are titles of popular 80s songs, you would be correct. Admittedly, some of this may go over the heads of younger readers if they aren’t familiar with 80s culture, but for those of us who grew up in that time period, you will love it. Recommended.
Contains: drug use, blood
Reviewed by Lizzy Walker