Monday, July 4, 2016

Moving Creep-Fest Serves as Tribute to Female Friendship and 1980s Pop Culture

My Best Friend’s Exorcism by Grady Hendrix (Quirk Books, 2016, 336pp.)

Ah, the ’80s. When most people think of this decade, they probably think of three things: shoulder pads, big hair, and the distinctive sound of its pop music. They probably do not automatically think of Satanic cults. Alas, thanks to a commonly shared belief that lack of religion and sleazy pop culture was causing teens to turn to Satanism, the concept of demonic possession isn’t that far a reach.

The story told in My Best Friend’s Exorcism belongs to Abby and Gretchen, two childhood friends who grow up sharing late-night phone marathons, forbidden Judy Blume novels, Seventeen Magazine, make-up techniques, and later, drugs. During one drug-fueled evening at a friend’s lake house, Gretchen, a sweet, loving girl, gets lost in the woods and emerges hours later, a cruel, sadistic wraith. When Abby later learns that the woods by the lake was once the rumored site of a Satanic sacrifice, she is left to wonder: is the Devil at work?

Although the story suffers from a slow start, patient readers will be rewarded with a surprisingly moving creep-fest that is as much a tribute to female friendships and 1980s pop culture as it is to the joys (and terrors!) of high school. Yet while the heroines are both teens, I definitely would not shelve it in the teen section of your library. As I said before, the beginning is a little slow, and the plot itself is so steeped in '80s nostalgia that most teens probably wouldn't appreciate the references. That said, although it exhibits drug-use, discussions of sexual activity, and several gross-out scenes, it's nothing that most older teenage horror fans won't be able to handle.

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