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My Best Friend’s Exorcism by Grady Hendrix

This is the third book I’ve read by Hendrix, and I’ve loved all of them. I mean with a cover like this, it’s hard to go wrong. I read Exorcism as an ebook, but from what I understand the inside cover is filled with all sorts of handwritten messages from the characters of the book. The book also has a good amount of scanned letters and articles that supplement the narrative. My recommendation? Get a physical copy of this book, rather than the ebook version.

Set in the eighties, the premise of My Best Friend’s Exorcism is exactly what it sounds like: after a spooky foray in the woods while taking LSD, Abby’s best friend Gretchen finds herself possessed by a powerful demon. Only Abby possesses the presence of mind to see matters for what they really are; none of the adults in town can see with any clarity the evil growing inside Gretchen as the demon slowly but surely gains control over her.

For anyone unfamiliar with Grady’s writing, he’s extremely funny, and his sense of horror is superb. (As it should be, since he wrote a whole book about horror paperbacks from the ’70s and ’80s.)

In Exorcism, the horrors of high school and adolescence match really well with the horrors of, well, the horror genre itself. As Gretchen’s evil influence begins to spread throughout the school, Grady uses her possession to touch on such topics as teen friendships, class differences, eating disorders, illicit crushes, and woefully negligent teachers.

But this book is not YA, and I found myself wondering while reading where exactly the differentiation between this book and YA lies. To me, My Best Friend’s Exorcism reads decidedly adult, despite the teen main characters, and I think that comes down to Grady’s voice. It’s a little more removed and top-down than you’d see in your typical YA read, and there’s some authorial distance from Abby’s decision-making that just reads more adult. Plus the intensity of Grady’s gross-out descriptions outpace any offerings you’ll find in the YA sphere, and in terms of plot, anything is on the table if it will tell a good story. Those who shy away from the harder parts of horror might want to look elsewhere for a spooky read, since some parts of this book can get intense. But for anyone looking for a Halloween-themed read that’s an ode to the eighties, definitely give this book a try!