Publication: May 17, 2016, by Quirk Books
Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Horror
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?
Horror stories make me giddy, excited and really creeped out. REALLY CREEPED OUT. But for me, the "being creeped out" part is the absolute fun of it all. It makes me so happy, so excited and so obsessed with the book that I'm reading, showing that the purpose is being put to good use. Most likely, the author's purpose of writing any horror fiction story is to entertain readers with a genre (especially in YA) that is rarely seen because some people cannot take it. I was definitely entertained with Grady Hendrix's first YA-based novel, My Best Friend's Exorcism. I couldn't stop reading, especially towards the end, and I knew, from the start, that it will turn out to be absolute perfection. Well, I wouldn't call it perfect at all, since Hendrix did take a long time to get to the actual exorcism, the part that I knew would occur and that I was looking forward to the most.
My Best Friend's Exorcism has the best setting ever: the late 1980s. I am a teenager, so I seriously have limited knowledge of the time where my parents were teenagers, except for the cheesy disco music that they still like to "ooh" and "awe" over constantly. From the gorgeous cover, mimicking a high school yearbook, to the actual references made in the novel, 1988 seems fantastic. Hendrix seems to have so much experience with this era, having lived in it as well, and it's something new for us YA readers who are either used to reading about (a) the future, where everything is scientific and eerie, (b) the past, especially real historical times or (c) the present. There's nothing about 1980 in any YA book, except for Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell. I would love to applaud Grady for this great premise.
It seems right to have this kind of book placed in the 80s era. That is the era where people were superstitious (not that they currently aren't), where unimaginable things were believed in, where people didn't have the technology that we are fortunate to have today, minus Abby's creepy Mickey Mouse telephone. Me imagining these characters' wacky hair and outfits is so intriguing. The setting of Charleston, South Carolina, which today is still known as one of the most haunted places in the world is just my favourite thing about the story itself... and of course, the aftermath of everything that happened to the two best friends (and protagonists).
"You know, Abby, this is one of those things that's broken, and it's not getting fixed. Some mistakes are forever, and you committed one. Welcome to the rest of your long, lonely life" (301).
This is all about what the title screams out at you: an exorcism of a best friend of someone. Well, that someone is Abby Rivers, who is our protagonist. In the beginning of the story, Hendrix explains Abby's past and how she met her best friend, Gretchen. We quickly skip along Abby's child and soon meet her sophomore year in high school where she notices Gretchen's personality changing, and how harshly her parents treat her. The only explanation behind all of her weird antics and sayings? A demon named Andras.
AGH. The possession that Gretchen experienced in the novel is no surprise—we knew that it would happen, but we obviously did not know how. I wish there was more "horror," more freaky moments in this story minus the ending where things really shape up. I felt that a lot of the story was filler, trying to get us to know the characters really well—perfectly, perhaps—but I didn't need that. Abby spent so much time making excuses for Gretchen, trying to not realize that what was really happening was not an illness or anything like that, but a demonic possession somehow. Rape came into question, but the real answer was something supernatural that could definitely make you cringe. People have described this book as gory, as a little too much, but I would disagree with that in some points of the story. We honestly only got into the real fast-paced stuff in the last fifty pages. I would rate those fifty pages 5 stars, but everything else seemed like a three star rating. I had issues with a lot of things, but most of that was because of the plot.
It seems that Grady Hendrix has experience with writing things about Satan and demons. I scrolled through a list of his other books, and they all seem to be horror stories. I'm surprised that he rolled this one down a little—I hope it's not for the reason that this was written for an young adult audience. Everything was just plain old high school drama that we constantly see in contemporaries these days. We see the characters experimenting with drugs, sneaking out, lying to their parents, having fun, partying—it's nothing new, in that way. And when I look at all of the events from that perspective, it makes me wonder if the world really changed at all from the 80s, if this is Hendrix's view of teenagers during that time. I guess the yearbook cover really did hint at "HIGH SCHOOL" all along.
"I love you, Abby. You're my best friend, and my mirror, and my reflection, and you are me, and you are everything I love and everything I hate, and I will never give up on you" (322).
Cheers for the mega adorable friendship between Gretchen and Abby. I WANT SOMETHING LIKE THEIRS. Girl power? Yes. Romance? No. Thank goodness for that extra detail, too. Not every YA book needs romance, and I feel that some authors need to take that into consideration when they write books these days. People, like myself, prefer books that are unique over those that have been written over and over again, it seems.
My Best Friend's Exorcism's ending, as well as its setting, were the best parts of the story. Your jaw will drop when you discover who will take the hands of the exorcism and sew everything together. Yay for independence (Abby's character) and yay for a beautifully mended friendship between two girls who come from different families and different lives, but have always tried their best to stay/stick together. This contained a ton of filler that was just meant for readers to get to know the characters better, but you will see—it's a little too much. I'M SO EXCITED FOR HORRORSTÖR NOW.
*A review copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for a honest review. Thank you so much!*