By Naomi Szeben, Book Review Editor and Critic
October 27th can’t come soon enough for fans of Stranger Things, the creepy yet addictive Netflix thriller set in the 1980’s and filled with era-appropriate lore.
If you’re going into withdrawal (as most of us likely are) we found the perfect read for you. Grady Hendrix’s My Best Friend’s Exorcism (now in paperback format) will fill your need for eighties nostalgia and will also make your skin crawl.
The book’s cover art evokes memories of video stores of old with its cluttered and busy VHS clamshell tape rentals (“be kind, please rewind”). The pastel painted teens appearing on the Drew Struzan-type poster cover are reminiscent of the R.L. Stine ‘Goosebumps’ franchise series of novellas. Within its pages, however, it’s all about the power of friendship, the magic of Casio-keyboard driven music, and…well, a demon.
Abby and Gretchen are best friends and it feels like nothing could come between them. When a skinny-dipping party goes horribly wrong, Gretchen is strangely changed for the worst. Her behaviour is easily dismissed as typical teenage mood swings, but there is soon something noticeably malicious, even evil about Gretchen. Abby is ousted by the cool kids, and has to save her friend while working from the sidelines of the powerful high school clique milieu.
Grady Hendrix’s second novel is a mashup between The Exorcist and Mean Girls. If the scene where Will coughed up alien larvae made you gag, you might want to avoid the pages where our hero, Abby, saves the life of her diet-shake-addicted frenemy, Margaret.
Each chapter is a mental trip back to the mid-eighties, with each chapter named after a Top Ten hit from that memorable era.
There’s plenty of inside jokes but the powerful moral lesson about the power of friendship remains strong and consistent. While the book begs the question as to whether the power of friendship could truly trump the Devil, it also shows us that Rock and Roll (the Devil’s music!) was stronger than the power of God.
Put on your favourite day-glo clothes and torn jeans paired with Converse sneakers and pull up a chair. You’ll be in for a great, shudder-inducing read.