There’s something wrong with Gretchen Lang, something that Abby can’t figure out. After an evening of skinny-dipping at a friend’s property leads to an incident in the woods, Gretchen’s once kind and considerate personality turns unpredictable and temperamental. Then strange things start to occur, and Abby can do nothing but watch her best friend spiral out of control, while those around her suffer the consequences.
(WARNING: This review contains minor spoilers.)
My Best Friend’s Exorcism had been on my radar for years, with Hendrix a popular name in the community, his various titles impossible to miss. Finally deciding to open it up, I enjoyed it quite a bit. Okay, so I admit the majority of 80’s references were lost on me (I’m a 90’s kid), and for a lot of readers the nostalgia was a significant part of their experience, so I definitely missed out on that – same goes for every other 80’s setting – but I’m all for possession tales in general, they’re one of my favourite tropes. Being submersed in Abby and Gretchen’s journey from their introduction at age ten, through to high school, meant that I became invested and cared about them. It reminded me of those innocent times where the latest pop star would inspire you to pick up a hairbrush and sing into it while wearing your mother’s makeup, so I suppose you could say it made me reminisce in that way. The worst thing was knowing that bad things were going to happen; there some sliver of dread that crept up on me throughout, and I wondered just how far it would go. The answer: pretty far, at certain points, but not as nasty as it could’ve been. There was a definite quirky and humorous tone blended in, which made it seem a bit more lighter to read, however it hit its peak with some disturbing scenes; one in particular I loved beyond anything else, involving Margaret, a member of Abby’s circle. I laughed as well as cringed, and it was great.
The thing about possessions, when it involves younger people, is that the changes in personality can be attributed to puberty or a slew of other issues relating to mental health, especially if the supernatural aspect isn’t so apparent. I really like being made to wonder, even for a short time, if something evil is actually at play, or if it’s just a troubling dose of adolescence and trauma. Gretchen was depicted as going through something but the details weren’t immediately obvious. The slow unravelling of her normal and promising life was completely engrossing, but what began as subtle eventually turned distinctly demonic. I’ve a soft spot for friendship and the power it can have – I believe Hendrix captured realistic emotion and beauty of such a bond. Abby herself was relatable and flawed; credit where it’s due, Hendrix hit the mark when it came to portraying teenage girls.
The ending itself held a different feel overall, and even though exorcisms tend to go hand in hand with possessions (and despite the title of the book), it was probably my least favourite segment. It wasn’t due to it being cheesy, it’s just that I preferred when it was all drama and anticipation of what Gretchen would do next. Brother Lemon was also an odd character, I didn’t know what to think of him half the time. He played the role of comic relief very well, I’d give him that.
In conclusion: Friendship was the focal point of My Best Friend’s Exorcism, showcasing the highs and lows as well as what happens when a pesky possession gets in the way. Being heavily entrenched in 80’s pop culture, I didn’t experience the same amount of sentiment as someone more familiar with that decade, but I enjoyed it regardless. There were some very memorable scenes – one specifically will stay with me for a while to come – and in general it was bursting with campy appeal. The ending is where it took a direction that felt different from the rest of the novel, introducing a character I didn’t entirely warm to.
“I love you, Gretchen Lang. You are my reflection and my shadow and I will not let you go.”
© Red Lace 2020