My Best Friend’s Exorcism is a 1980’s nostalgia trip about a teenager whose best friend becomes possessed by a demon, but no one will believe her. Gretchen and Abby live in Charleston, South Carolina, and have been best friends since fifth grade. The year is 1988, and they attend the prestigious Albemarle Academy, though Abby is there on a merit scholarship because her family is not super wealthy like Gretchen’s. After a night of skinny-dipping and an attempted acid trip, Abby notices that something is wrong with Gretchen, and the story (and the tension) build from there. This book felt like a campy crossover between Sixteen Candles and The Exorcist, so if you’re a fan of both of those things, there’s a good chance you will like this book.
As I already mentioned the build-up of My Best Friend’s Exorcism – similar to The Exorcist (and other classic horror) – is long and slow. For a long time, Abby is the only one aware the something is really wrong with Gretchen, and everyone else just keeps chalking up her behavior to normal teenaged weirdness. If you’ve ever watched the clock while watching The Exorcist, you’ll notice that the first half of the movie passes without Regan doing anything noticeable strange – at first it’s just her mother who thinks something is wrong, but it’s not visible to the audience. My Best Friend’s Exorcism does this just as well. The adults of the story being so concerned about appearances played well into this arc. Abby’s frustration about the adults not listening to her rang very true to the frustrations of a teenager who isn’t being taken seriously, even when talking about something very serious. I was getting flashbacks (in a good way) to countless other stories of children trying to point things out to oblivious adults.
I also appreciated the tension that Hendrix built by including descriptions of weird animal behaviors and big storms coming through that could just feel like background, but in fact contribute to the growing sense of unease. I found myself wondering at one point how much of that was just supposed to be a representation of the number of storms that move through Charleston every year, but it contributed to the atmosphere of the story either way. The one weakness was that I think some of the 80’s nostalgia was pushing it a little bit too much. As a child of the 90’s, a lot of the references were going over my head and unnecessary to understand what was happening, which probably means that some of them could have been cut without any detriment. But even with some of that, the story still worked well.
If you love a good horror story, and appreciate teen scream movies, My Best Friend’s Exorcism is probably just the book for you. If you’re looking for something spooky to read on a rainy day during your summer vacation, give this one a read.