Saturday, June 18, 2016

MY BEST FRIEND'S EXORCISM BY GRADY HENDRIX - BOOK REVIEW

Hello everyone!

I am back with another book review, My Best Friend's Exorcism by Grady Hendrix. Thank you so much to Penguin Random House Canada for sending me an ARC of this book for an honest review. As always, all opinions are my own.


Let me just start this review off by saying I wasn't sure I was going to like this book. I requested it originally because it sounded intriguing, but once I got it, I didn't pick it up right away because I didn't think I was ready for it yet. I had to mentally prepare myself, because this is not the sort of book I normally pick up, but I wanted to challenge myself.

And I'll tell you, I am very pleased I decided to give this one a chance.

Based on the synopsis of this book, and really, even the title, you can tell this book is going to be about a girl who's best friend is possessed. However, this story, much to my delight, was so much more than just a book about demons and satanic worship.

Firstly, the setting. This book is set in Charleston, North Carolina (I'm so proud to say, as a Canadian, I didn't have to look up the state) in the year 1988. There are a lot of sort of background issues happening, historically, especially in the South (is North Carolina considered south? Ok, maybe I am too Canadian). There was some racial issues, including one part of the book that addresses this issue, during the schools "Spirit Week," one of the day's is "Slave Day." The book mentions how this activity becomes obsolete in later years, but that is just one of the examples. As well, there are political and sexual conflicts, the book mentions the first female vice president, as well as the families being considered Democrats vs. Republicans, and Ronald Regan (he was a president, right?) There was also some pop culture, or more cultural things that came up, heavy metal music being a backwards brain-washing technique, the occult, Satanists and exorcisms making the news, etc.

It's interesting to me, being that I didn't live through this time period, to see how people responded to different situations, and what people believed. The author does a great job of showing what life was like then, and just based on my general knowledge, what he describes seems pretty much on point.

Of course, a significant portion of this book deals with Abby (the main character) and her possessed friend, Gretchen, and everything evil that happens. People get hurt, relationships get shattered, there's even a gut-wrenching scene near the end that involves the family dog. Friends turn on one-another, and actions have terrible consequences.

I think another large part of this book was the friendship between Abby and Gretchen. There are times their friendship frustrated me but I also thought it was really sweet Abby stuck with Gretchen through thick and thin. Abby tries to help Gretchen, even after all their other friends desert her, because she was there for Abby when she needed a friend, but there were some points where I thought that Abby was way to loyal. She pretty much helped Gretchen no matter what, cue dog scene. There is only one scene in the whole book that Abby stands up for herself, and that is only when she knows Gretchen knows she had crossed the line. But even that betrayal didn't last much longer.

Also, quickly, I want to mention the fact that each chapter was titled with an 80s song, and it was spectacular! Everything from "Jenny (867-5309)" and "It's the End of the World As We Know It (I Feel Fine)" to "We Got the Beat" and my personal favourite, "Total Eclipse of the Heart." I loved the incorporation and it was fun singing the song in my head while reading. Sometimes, the chapter even featured part of the song in it.

I will say, for a book that has exorcism in the title, the exorcism itself was a little lacklustre and I'm still a little fuzzy on the details. I feel like there was a big lead up and when it happened, it was just, like "Oh, okay. I guess she's back to normal now?" I didn't really get the vibe that anything happened, which leads me to my next point.

I'm not sure Gretchen was really possessed.

I know, I know, I sound like those parents in the book, she's just troubled. Part of me thinks she is, actually. I think the whole possession was more of a metaphor, I know, groan, for growing up, rebellion, especially in a household with such strict parents. I feel like Gretchen just wanted to be her own person for a bit. There are a few things that don't quite add up to troubled teen, however, so I'm thinking she suffered from some sort of mental illness. Now, hear me out, I'm not trying to throw her in the loony bin like the parents, but I just think that she had either schizophrenia or some other illness that made her hallucinate. I think the LSD they took kicked it into overdrive, and she started going crazy. In addition, the exorcism was sketchy at best, she could have been faking it, and Abby said the demon's name, so she could have easily just repeated it back.

Whether or not Gretchen was possessed, I still really enjoyed this book, more so than I thought I would. I think the important thing here is that you don't think of it as a book about a girl and a demon, but two best friends, trying to make it in a tricky world, with some great 80s songs.