Review: My Best Friend's Exorcism by Grady Hendrix

Friday, December 15, 2017
Title: My Best Friend's Exorcism
Author: Grady Hendrix
Genre: horror
Series: N/A
Pages: 336
Published: May 17, 2016
Source: borrowed library
Rating: 2/5
Abby and Gretchen have been best friends since fifth grade, when they bonded over a shared love of E.T., roller-skating parties, and scratch-and-sniff stickers. But when they arrive at high school, things change. Gretchen begins to act . . . different. And as the strange coincidences and bizarre behavior start to pile up, Abby realizes there’s only one possible explanation: Gretchen, her favorite person in the world, has a demon living inside her. And Abby is not about to let anyone or anything come between her and her best friend. With help from some unlikely allies, Abby embarks on a quest to save Gretchen. But is their friendship powerful enough to beat the devil? 

In the words of the immortal Ron Swanson, never half-ass two things. Whole ass one thing. My Best Friend's Exorcism wants to be a satire of the 80s satanic panic, while also being a horror title and a coming of age story. The notes aren't cohesive, it's synth pop out of key.

One of the things that made the first season of American Horror Story so effective was it's dual take on horror. It was both about a haunted house and an exploration of what scares the kind of suburban white people the show starred. It was about the fear of gay people and teenage abortions and having a disabled child. These are the same notes MBFE is trying to hit, telling dual stories of a teenage girl possessed by Andras while also confronting fears from urban legends: tapeworms in diet pills, needles in Halloween candy, and your kids licking LSD laced stickers. Ryan Murphy's show was a masterwork and shot him into the tv stratosphere. Grady's book...

Do you know the story of the ET landfill?

At one point, Abby's priest tells her that possession stories are just parables to explain how people change, mostly children growing up (or rape victims pulling in on themselves). So that's another story the book tries to tell. The book actually starts years before the possession, with Abby's ET themed skate party and the story of how she and Gretchen bonded when every other child goes to Margaret's house to ride horses. As the story continues on and Gretchen starts to change, there's a question if it actually is demon possession or just puberty. She breaks out, she changes her clothes, she hangs out with other friends. Of course she also vomits up owl feathers, soooo, it's not a big question.

The horror elements are few and far between. The demon contents himself with petty high school things: getting the quarterback drunk, forging love notes. He ruins lives, yes, but there's nothing paranormal about it. The newspaper clippings talk about dead fish and hoards of owls taking off with house pets, but nothing supernatural actually happens on page between the flock of dead birds right after the possession and the swarm of bugs during the exorcism. The tapeworm scene is shocking and gross and probably the only scene I would classify as "horror".

I feel like there are a lot of plot holes in the story itself. The actual demonic possession isn't well explained and I'm left confused if it actually happened the night in the woods or before. Gretchen has a boyfriend from camp but it's revealed that [highlight for spoiler] his phone number is actually a direct line to Gretchen's...soul? consciousness? post Andras taking over her body. Abby looks the boyfriend's actual number up and calls him in her investigation of the possession and he reveals that he's never spoken to Gretchen. So who was Gretchen calling before the possession? There's also something weird about a phone line in the woods near the site of the supposed satanic rituals. It's mentioned several times and I guess it's related to the spoiler I've mentioned, but I never understood how or why.

In all, this didn't work for me. It wasn't funny enough to be parody, smart enough to be satire, or scary enough to be horror. The best part is the spotify playlist of 80s jams.

CW: Eating disorder (including counting food), on page pet murder

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