1988, Charleston, South Carolina. 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 enough to beat the devil?
Supernatural dramas often tend to centre around teenagers – something about the maelstrom of rage, angst and hormones that is adolescence, along with bodies sprouting hair and changing beyond all recognition, mean that tales of the supernatural and strange seem, well, almost normal compared to all the other bizarre things that are going on. Add to that the fact that many teenagers feel like complete outsiders – and demonic posessions, lycanthropic transformations and vampiric urges hardly feel that surprising.
It’s a theme that Grady Hendrix exploits to maximum effect in My Best Friend’s Exorcism – an incredibly charming ride through suburban America and the lives of high school girls. Anyone who lived through the 80’s, or, like me, missed the majority of it but revels in such films as The Breakfast Club and Heathers, or has a bizarrely indepth knowledge of Madonna’s 80’s output, will feel absolutely at home in the world that Hendrix has recreated.
Outwardly, this is a horror story – and the author doesn’t spare the reader any gory details, with the last few chapters really taking a rather dark turn, some moments of which are rather hard to read. However, the real heart of the book is in the friendship between Gretchen and Abby – it’s believable, touching, and, even with the risk of demonic possession, incredibly true to life. The humour between them and their friends is also wonderfully well drawn, and provides the book with a large amount of warmth it would lack if the author had just focused on making this a horror tale. A special note should go to the designers of the book too – the yearbook effect sets the scene wonderfully.
Incredibly funny, surprisingly moving, wonderfully scary and crammed full of on the nose pop culture references, My Best Friend’s Exorcism is definitely one of my reads of the summer – so many thanks to the publisher for the copy.
Review originally posted on The Bookbag – http://www.thebookbag.co.uk