Before I quit my job at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh to play at being a writer, I was a regular contributor to the Eleventh Stack blog. I was able to write about pretty much any material I wanted in the Library’s catalog. It was great! On Thursdays, I’ll revist some of my old faves. A version of this post first appeared on August 24, 2016 and was republished on Littsburgh on September 7, 2016.
If you’re an adult, there’s a chance you remember your time in high school one of two ways – either with great fondness or utter contempt. Whatever your experience, there are certain universal events that each one of us probably remembers: your best friend and your adventures together, your homecoming or prom, the first time you snuck out of the house to go to a party, your first heartbreak, that time you had to kidnap your best friend and perform an exorcism on her …
All right, maybe one of those situations is unique to Grady Hendrix’s latest novel, My Best Friend’s Exorcism (affiliate).
Abby and Gretchen have been best friends since Abby’s disastrous birthday party at a roller-skating rink in 1982. Now, it’s 1988 and the two are entering their junior year. One night, they decide to drop acid with some friends and Gretchen wanders off. She’s found before morning, but something in her changes after that night. Sure, she claims she’s fine, but Abby – always the pragmatist – thinks something is seriously wrong with her friend’s increasingly odd behavior. Abby’s conclusion? Gretchen has become possessed by a demon.
Like, sooooo totally high school, amiright?
Hendrix first grabbed my attention with 2014’s Horrorstör, an excellent haunted house story set in a Cleveland-based IKEA knockoff. Drawing comparisons to the work of Chuck Palahniuk, it’s delightfully subversive and I also recommend it. There was talk of a television adaptation, but there’s been no news on that since 2015. Ah, simpler times.
Like in Horrorstör, there are some wonderfully disgusting things that happen in My Best Friend’s Exorcism. Hendrix’s writing has a way of getting under your skin until you just want to tear it off. I won’t get into too many gory details, but there’s one scene involving a tapeworm that essentially ruined spaghetti for me. Much like how Guy Fieri’s (pronounced FEE-eddy) tomato sauce ruins spaghetti and your digestive system.
True, it does take over one hundred pages for the plot to really kick in, but those pages are essential for building Abby and Gretchen’s friendship. Without those pages, you wouldn’t care about the two when the titular exorcism takes place. Much more than a regular horror story, My Best Friend’s Exorcism is about the power and longevity of friendships.
Picture a world where John Hughes directed The Exorcist and you’ve got the world of My Best Friend’s Exorcism.
Almost four years later, I wish the biggest problem in schools was the occasional demonic possession instead of this administration’s insistence on turning them into petri dishes. But hey, at least there haven’t been any school shootings since February. So that’s something.
Stay safe out there, dear reader.