Book Review: My Best Friend's Exorcism
Growing up Catholic, we are taught about exorcisms. Catholic priests that are able to perform exorcisms will only implement exorcisms if it's absolutely necessary; there was one priest that was the priest for the church tied to my school that was trained to perform exorcisms. We also learned about famous exorcism cases based on movies like "The Exorcist" and "The Exorcism of Emily Rose." While we didn't actually watch the movies, we learned the true stories behind the exorcisms. These days, it can be hard to tell if it's a true demonic possession or it's a mental health issue. As the name suggests, "My Best Friend's Exorcism" does involve a demonic possession.
The book takes place in a suburb of Charleston, SC during the 1980s, a few years prior to the book "The Southern Book Club's Guide to Slaying Vampires." It revolves around two best friends during their sophomore year: Abby and Gretchen. After a night of partying during a sleepover, Gretchen goes missing for the night and mysteriously reappears. Abby notices that Gretchen is not the same after that night, not only physically but also mentally. During a school assembly, a Christian group of bodybuilders (yes that's how the brand themselves) comes to lecture their school and Abby fears her friend may be possessed by a demon.
This was the first book I read by Grady Hendrix. It was picked as a book club read for an online book club I'm in for fans of the podcast, "Two Girls One Ghost." I was initially interested in the book because of the supernatural premise, but after reading this book, it really gave me the drive to continue reading as a hobby. After college, I was so burned out from studying and reading books for classes that I wasn't able to enjoy reading for fun again. But after reading this book, it ignited my passion for reading again. While I didn't grow up in the 80s, I could resonate with all the nostalgia that was throughout the novel; Grady does a good job of describing the time period and cultural references without shoving it down your throat.
I wanted to include it in my PopSugar Reading Challenge, where I read 50 books for the calendar year based on the prompts I'm given. You can use this book for the following prompts:
- A book with a great first line (the prompt I chose)
"The exorcist is dead."
- A book published the month of your birthday (May)
- A book recommended by your favorite blog, vlog, podcast, or online book club
- A book that passes the Bechdel test
- A book with more than 20 letters in its title
Hendrix is a sharp writer. He really knows how to use words to describe what the characters are feeling/experiencing even though you can't see it for yourself. He is able to convey how high school can be hell, even if you're not possessed by a demon. The characters gossip about each other, go out of their way to isolate their "friends" sometimes, and Gretchen [while possessed] slowly manipulates those closest to her and ruin their lives. If you're judging a book based on its cover, just look at how aesthetic/nostalgic the cover is for "My Best Friend's Exorcism" (see below): there's even a reference to VHS tapes! If you're looking for a nostalgic, 1980s book that features some good scares and loyal friendships, I recommend "My Best Friend's Exorcism" by Grady Hendrix.