How to Save Your Friend From a Possession: A Review of Grady Hendrix's My Best Friend's Exorcism
Updated: Sep 22, 2020
For claiming to be a horror lover, I feel that this blog is lacking in the amount of horror novel reviews. Sure, I’ve talked about Poe last week, and I may have mentioned some other horror stories in passing, but it has been awhile since we’ve talked about a straight horror novel.
The second post I ever wrote was on Thomas Olde Heuvelt’s Hex; that was the last time I’ve talked about a horror novel. I’ve read that book quite a few times, I’ve had time to mull that story over in my mind. But the book we’ll be talking about today is one that I haven’t had the luxury to read multiple times. My TBR pile is getting out of hand, I just don’t have time to re-read all the books I received for Christmas.
Anyway, today we’ll be discussing My Best Friend’s Exorcism by Grady Hendrix. This is the first book of Hendrix’s that I have read, but not the first of Hendrix’s I’ve heard of. I was first made aware of this author when I stumbled across one of his earlier works: Horrorstor. I was on the fence with that one when I read the synopsis, but when I found My Best Friend’s Exorcism I knew instantly that this book was up my alley.
The setting: 1980’s, Charleston, South Carolina where there is a heavy Christian background. Our main location of the story is a Christian affiliated high school complete with a chapel and bell tower. And yes, we’re right in the middle of the Satanic Panic; one of the best times of history.
The characters: teenagers, four friends, just living their lives, trying to make it through high school, one of them is trying to make some money, and one suddenly becomes possessed by a demon.
The plot: One of the friends, Abby, trying to figure out what’s wrong with her best friend Gretchen. There is some basic teenaged BS happening with talks of the hottest guys in school, feeling ugly without make up on, and thinking the world is going to end if you don’t get good grades and get into the right college. While all that is happening, Gretchen is also being harassed and assaulted in her house by a demon trying to gain full control of her. So basically it’s just junior year.
It’s a lot, and it’s a lot of fun.
Now before we continue any further, there is a trigger warning. Firstly, there is the mental and physical abuse that Gretchen suffers at the hands of the demon. There are also mentions of suicide and anorexia in the novel as well.
This book is a bit of a slow burn. There is a lot that happens in this book, and things happen quickly, but nothing massive truly happens until two-thirds of the way through the novel.
Since we do not read from Gretchen’s POV we do not get to see how she gets possessed, where she is when it occurs, what leads up to her possession; we don’t see any of that. And yes, this happens within the first few chapters of the book. I mean, the book is titled My Best Friend’s Exorcism after all. But we don’t get information on that.
Gretchen is obviously going through something, her personality and demeanor drastically change multiple times in the story. Even though we as a reader know that she’s possessed, since we are reading from Abby’s POV we have to sit through chapters upon chapters of Abby running around asking Gretchen what’s wrong. That gets annoying. So it isn’t until Abby meets the exorcist that things finally happen. Sadly that isn't until two-thirds of the way through the book.
Like I said though, things do happen throughout the novel. It’s honestly the struggles the four friends have that are what drive the novel forward. Margaret, the resident mean girl of the bunch, struggles with her weight and looks throughout the book. And Glee, the brainiac, struggles with finding love.
And once Gretchen has full on been possessed by her demon, she uses the struggles of her other two friends to mess with them.
Honestly, what happens with Margaret and Glee are probably the scariest things that happen in the book; most likely because they are the most realistic. I am going to spoil what happens to both of them because I can’t stop thinking about one of their fates.
Glee is the one who attempts suicide. She attempts to throw herself from the top of the school’s bell tower because she’s been tricked into thinking her crush likes her back. And all thanks to her great friend Gretchen.
Margaret is the one whose fate I can’t stop thinking about. Margaret is tricked into drinking tapeworm eggs that hatch in her stomach and intestines. It causes her to lose weight at the cost of having a tapeworm snake its way up her throat and be tugged out by her dog. Yeah, I had to read that unexpectedly and now you have too. It was definitely one of those situations you couldn’t stop looking at. And by looking at, I mean reading.
Like I said, things happen in this story but the majority of those things are not about Gretchen and her demon. Nor are these moments about Abby outside of her internal monologue of wondering what’s wrong with her friends. Now that I’m looking back on it, this book feels a lot like a bunch of moments that are strung together by a lot of Abby’s complaining.
Despite its faults, I enjoyed this novel. There was a lot of humor in the book that was very enjoyable with the 80’s nostalgia craze currently happening, and the heavily Christian adult characters who are swept up in the Satanic Panic. Gretchen’s demon also kept me heavily entertained with its horrible personality. I just wish the action in the book was more continuous, and would have preferred there to have been more on the demon. I like my possession stories to have to some meaty demon backstory, which I didn’t get here.
I feel like in a lot of my reviews I mention that I would prefer a story to be written in a different POV; this one is no different. I want the most information possible without the exposition being poorly thrown at me. So yeah, I think this book would have been slightly better had the book been written from the POV of both Abby and Gretchen and not just Abby.
Will I read this book again though? Absolutely, yes. Will I still be mad that the dog dies? Once again, yes. Oh yeah, another spoiler alert, one of the dogs in the book dies.