Book Review: My Best Friend's Exorcism by Grady Hendrix

TW: Sexual Assault, gaslighting, child abuse, graphic animal cruelty/animal death, graphic description of dead child, self-harm/suicide, e...

TW: Sexual Assault, gaslighting, child abuse, graphic animal cruelty/animal death, graphic description of dead child, self-harm/suicide, eating disorders/body hatred/fatphobia, violence, kidnapping/abduction, death/dying, blood/gore, drug usage/drug abuse, racism, sexism/misogyny, classism

I first heard of Grady Hendrix when The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires was released, and boyo, how had I never heard of him before. His books are quirky, often southern, and this wonderful mix of horror and comedy. It’s like he took all the best parts of 80s horror movies and made them a bit scarier and more intentionally funny. This was my second time reading a book by him, and I have been on the hunt for all the others. I will now read literally anything he writes (I’m truly sure that there must be a cult following). My Best Friend’s Exorcism is optioned for film and has already started releasing casting information. I urge you to read the book first!

Back cover synopsis: The year is 1988. High school sophomores Abby and Gretchen have been best friends since fourth grade. But after an evening of skinny-dipping goes disastrously wrong, Gretchen begins to act…different. She’s moody. She’s irritable. And bizarre incidents keep happening whenever she’s nearby. Abby’s investigation leads her to some startling discoveries—and by the time their story reaches its terrifying conclusion, the fate of Abby and Gretchen will be determined by a single question: Is their friendship powerful enough to beat the devil?

Keep in mind though that Hendrix’s brand of horror can be blasphemous (like this book certainly is at times, and is often the case in exorcism-related pop culture), and can be graphic. But can you truly resist classic horror themes written for modern day but in a southern 80s setting? And his stories have some social commentary too. They tend to bring to light some of the problematic issues of the 80s/90s, but not in a way that makes it a major part of the story. They’re still horror novels, but there are sometimes little comments or scenes that make you think “damn, it really was like that.” While I’m not sure if this book would be considered YA because some of the content, the main characters are teenagers. It’s like Jennifer’s Body meets Mean Girls but set in the 80s and full of pop culture references. It’s haunting and gruesome at times, but it’s a mix of being a story about friendship and trauma. It’s about overcoming demons (literally and figuratively), and about never giving up on yourself or the people you love. But it's also about class and privilege, the harms of gaslighting, and how society tends to ignore teenage girls.

"Everyone was desperate to be an individual, but they all were terrified to stand out." - My Best Friend's Exorcism, Grady Hendrix

I really enjoyed this book. It was funny and engaging but also really horrifying at times. Grady Hendrix is such a fantastic storyteller that brings flawed (and often stereotypical) characters into haunting storylines. My Best Friend's Exorcism is a love letter to southern literature, cult horror, and 80s pop culture.

Goodreads rating: ★★★★☆

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