I got a kick out of Grady Hendrix’s WE SOLD OUR SOULS and picked up MY BEST FRIEND’S EXORCISM. The book packaging seems to promise a campy STRANGER THINGS-style nostalgia tour, but the read is better than that, a serious and character-driven dive into demonic possession and teenage angst.
The year is 1988. High schoolers Abby and Gretchen are best friends. After a night experimenting with acid goes wrong, Gretchen starts to act strangely. At first, she appears to be deteriorating in front of Abby’s eyes, but then comes back to school different. Popular. Beautiful. And evil.
Now it’s up to Abby to save her friend, as the demon possessing Gretchen seeks to isolate and destroy her in return.
This novel is a deep and heartfelt look into high school, its popularity contests, cruelty, friendships, and not feeling understood by parents and teachers. The writing is solid and focuses heavily on character, and the horror element is satisfyingly unnerving and creepy. The climax has a solution that might be considered corny but actually works for the story, and it concludes a realistic path filled with plenty of struggle.
My only complaints were the ‘80s frills, which didn’t really create a sense of nostalgia and were even distracting. I found the pacing to be a little on the slow side in the middle of the book. But these were minor complaints. Overall, I enjoyed this horror tale as something fresh and engaging.