Grady Hendrix, whose unique talent is to amuse and disturb simultaneously, does it again in his newest pop culture / horror mashup, the account of a nGrady Hendrix, whose unique talent is to amuse and disturb simultaneously, does it again in his newest pop culture / horror mashup, the account of a nasty case of possession at an American suburban high school in the totally gnarly 1980s.
You might want to read Hendrix's books in actual book form, or the experience could lose some of its zing. Like the craftily designed Horrorstör, a haunted-house story about an IKEA-ish superstore whose packaging closely resembles a catalog from an IKEA-ish superstore, My Best Friend's Exorcism has its own charming physical schtick: it looks a lot a high school yearbook from the 1980s, and every chapter is titled with a radio classic of the era. Loaded with black humor, that "playlist" includes "Sunday Bloody Sunday" and "I Think We're Alone Now" as well as the obvious but always appropriate "It's The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine"). Having attended a suburban high school in the 80s, I'm exactly the target demo for this book . . . and I can totally vouch for the bad hair, awesome music, and rampant demonic possession.
Seriously, though. This is the story of Gretchen, a (relatively) good girl going unpleasantly wrong after a blurry night of partying in the woods. It unfolds through the eyes of her BFF since childhood, the wry and increasingly horrified Abby. Entwined with the story of Gretchen's decline into corruption, Abby shares the history of their friendship, exposes the mean-girl cliquishness of high school, and makes a buttload of sassy pop culture references. If you're old enough to get the jokes, you'll laugh a lot. (Shout out to my Gen X peeps!).
I just realized that makes MBFE sound something like "Clueless" with less "barf me out!" and more more actual barf. Its sassy tone could fool you, but this is not a YA novel; even its humor is dark and disturbing, and also nobody wants to give teenagers any encouragement to be more violently crazy than they already are. Heavy on the body horror, splattery, squirmy, and sometimes pushing the yuck meter into the red, there's implied sexual violence, casually lethal cruelty and recreational drug and alcohol use. (view spoiler)[One disconnect I had with the plot had to do with the implication that casual drug experimentation led directly to Gretchen's possession-or-whatever. Partly, it's that it feels a little judgy and not tonally right for the book, which otherwise reflects how teenagers really behave when adults aren't looking. Also, it's an uninspired choice for the moment of infestation, since pretty much every book about demonic possession asserts drug use is one of the moral weaknesses that lets them take you. Like, duh.(hide spoiler)]. If you lived through, or at least heart the 1980s, adore pop culture trivia, and can stomach Gretchen's repulsive afflictions, you'll enjoy this totally gnarly novel. 4 solid stars . . . see spoiler above if you really want to know why it's not a 5 for me. Still, waaaaaay awesome!...more