Nostalgia, Camp, and Straight-Up Horror in "My Best Friend's Exorcism"

The Fiction Addiction

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My Best Friend's Exorcism(my image)

My Best Friend’s Exorcism, by Grady Hendrix, is a campy adventure of 1980s music, parties, friends, and demonic possession.

High school besties Abby and Gretchen, along with two other friends, are bored and experimenting with, uh, mild-altering substances. (It’s the 80s so no one’s parents are ever home.) Something happens to Gretchen that night, but it’s not immediately clear whether it’s a bad trip, an assault, or supernatural. From then on, something is not right.

It’s immediately clear to Abby that something is just not right with her beloved best friend. Sure, it’s story about the 80s life and demon possession, but their friendship is the heart of the story.  Parents, classmates and teachers can find excuses for the horrifying changes in Gretchen and the horrifying things that keep happening when she’s around. But Abby knows the real Gretchen, and she isn’t fooled.

There’s a clever, more subtle evil than just a demon, though. The girls all attend the same competitive school, but they’re not really equal.  Abby’s mom is always at work, while her dad is always lying on the couch, so obviously Abby must be a bad influence, and probably a drug dealer, too.  When Abby is blamed for Gretchen’s trouble, it feels like realistic classism, not a campy supernatural horror.

I do have to warn you that the demonic possession has really gross bits, I had to skim and skip a lot. I was also slightly grossed out by another of this author’s novels, The Final Girls Support Group, but both books were ultimately so slasher-movie OTT that it wasn’t so scary.

My Best Friend’s Exorcism story really nails 80s life, with satanic panic freaking out about D&D or metal music or whatever, while basically every teen is a latchkey kid with a car

Recommended for fans of the 1980’s period piece/creeping horror of Stranger Things and of the endless 80s pop culture references in Ready Player One.

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