the power of best friends
My Best Friend's Exorcism
by Grady Hendrix
“I love you, Gretchen Lang. You are my reflection and my shadow and I will not let you go. We are bound together forever and ever! Until Halley’s Comet comes around again. I love you dearly and I love you queerly and no demon is bigger than this!”―
grady hendrix, my best friend's exorcism
Abby and Gretchen have been best friends since fifth grade, when they bonded over a shared love of E.T., roller-skating parties, and scratch-and-sniff stickers. But when they arrive at high school, things change. Gretchen begins to act….different. And as the strange coincidences and bizarre behavior start to pile up, Abby realizes there’s only one possible explanation: Gretchen, her favorite person in the world, has a demon living inside her. And Abby is not about to let anyone or anything come between her and her best friend. With help from some unlikely allies, Abby embarks on a quest to save Gretchen. But is their friendship powerful enough to beat the devil?
My Best Friend’s Exorcism by Grady Hendrix is a nostalgic trip to hell and back with best friends, walkmans, and New Coke. It is as fun as the title suggests.
“She could decide how she was going to be. She had a choice. Life could be an endless series of joyless chores, or she could get totally pumped and make it fun. There were bad things, and there were good things, but she got to choose which things to focus on. Her mom focused only on the bad things. Abby didn’t have to.”
― Grady Hendrix, My Best Friend’s Exorcism
I remember the 1980s. I remember E.T., legwarmers, tall gravity-defying hair, and the mall. I have a picture from 5th grade that is spectacular. All that feels very far away now, as it is 2021. But, just for a moment, Grady Hendrix transported me back to my childhood for a wild ride.
My Best Friends Exorcism follows two best friends Abigail and Gretchen, from the inception of their friendship, during the 4th grade when Gretchen gave Abigail a bible for her birthday at an E.T. themed roller rink party, through High School when their friendship gets much hazier and is tested by literal demonic influence. Abigail, the book’s protagonist, sees life as a before and after. Before Gretchen, and after. The two of them are inseparable. But, after a wild night in a forest with tabs of LSD, Gretchen comes back… different. At first, Abigail can’t figure it out and blames benign things. But there is something dark in the heart of her best friend, and she is the only one who can save her.
“Corn dogs,” the exorcist said, “are all the proof I need that there is a God.”
― Grady Hendrix, My Best Friend’s Exorcism
I have an almost identical set of friendships with a couple of girls I grew up with. We did many of the things that Abigail and Gretchen did. I remember one of my best friends doing the entire dance from Thriller in a parking lot, seriously. She is amazingly talented. But, I know that people who go through school have friends like this. At any era. The details might be different, but at heart, the feelings are the same. Some people come into your life and help shape you. They help make you into the person you are going to be. Sometimes they stay for a while, and sometimes they last for a lifetime. But they remain in your heart. These connections are the strings that Grady Hendrix plucks when you read this novel.
What I am saying here is that although this book spoke to me on a very, very specific level. It will resonate with just about anyone who reads it. Because, while the era is different, the relationship is the same. Abigail and Gretchen love each other, a particular kind of love made of pinky swears and lifetime promise. Promises that will probably fall away as age and responsibilities change the nature of their lives. But, promises and intention none-the-less. And Abigail is going to save Gretchen, even when she doubts her sanity and even if she dies trying.
Also, this is a horror novel. It has exorcism in the title, so very graphic and horrifying things happen. But it is told in a Grady Hendrix-type way that balances the narrative and horrific elements with fun and comedic things. He balances light and dark moments, so much so that, at times, you let your guard down as a reader. Then kaboom, something scary that reminds you that there is something seriously wrong with Gretchen.
The characters are very well developed. I enjoyed learning about all of them, even the supporting characters. If this were an 80s horror movie, many of them would have probably been sliced and diced by Jason Voorhees by now. Instead, Grady gives them a different sort of treatment. We get to know them and watch how Grady twists the proverbial knife in their lives. It is very well done.
My Best Friend’s Exorcism is a stand-out book with dark and twisted moments of humor that will appeal to almost any reader. Think Stranger Things mixed with The Exorcism all to the soundtrack of 1980s Madonna. It is entertaining as hell, especially if you enjoy a sprinkling of pop-culture references. I am finding Hendrix’s entire catalog entertaining thus far. My Best Friend’s Exorcism is the third Hendrix book I have read, the first being Horrostor followed by We Sold Our Souls. I have plans to read two more in 2021. You really can’t go wrong with his books.
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Elizabeth Tabler runs Beforewegoblog and is constantly immersed in fantasy stories. She was at one time an architect but divides her time now between her family in Portland, Oregon, and as many book worlds as she can get her hands on. She is also a huge fan of Self Published fantasy and is on Team Qwillery as a judge for SPFBO5. You will find her with a coffee in one hand and her iPad in the other. Find her on: Goodreads / Instagram / Pinterest / Twitter