My Best Friend’s Exorcism: A Novel, by Grady Hendrix

From the title of this book I wasn’t sure whether to expect either pure horror or a comic take on horror. It turned out to be neither but was a truly touching book about social outcasts and friendship.

Abby and Gretchen meet at Gretchen’s fourth birthday party. It was set to be a skating party for Gretchen’s whole class but the only girl from school attending is Abby. Gretchen, even in fourth grade, is something of an outsider, despite coming from a well-to-do, if odd, family in South Carolina. Abby is a scholarship student at the same academy that Gretchen attends and comes from a struggling family that seems to get poorer while the world gets richer. While all the other girls skip Gretchen’s birthday to go to a party where they could ride horses, Abby goes to the birthday party on the moral grounds that Gretchen’s invitation came first.

After an initial struggle Abby and Gretchen become best friends for life and the book spends a surprising (but wonderfully high quality) amount of time on the threads of their friendship together and how it grows from the first meeting through later years. It isn’t until middle school years that Gretchen goes through a sudden change. small meannesses she showed when younger seem to blossom. She begins talking in her sleep, thinks there’s someone behind her touching her, and in a transformation that seems to happen overnight Gretchen becomes the most popular girl in school. It’s at a school assembly where the class is watching a group of Christian muscle building brothers when things clear up for Abby. One of the brothers looks out into the audience, points at Gretchen, and says that she has an evil spirit.

In a short amount of time it becomes clear just how much evil is now inside Gretchen. That’s when Abby gets ahold of the brother from the assembly and together they kidnap Gretchen for an exorcism.

How the exorcism is finally accomplished manages to wrap up all the tender themes that run through the rest of the book with ideas about friendship, loyalty, understanding, and forgiveness all coming together.

What I expected to be a few laughs or YA horror ended up to be a completely excellent book with a huge heart. The book does have lots of humor along with horror straight out of The Exorcist with a dash of Supernatural, but the entire book is much more well-rounded and emotional than I expected when I bought the book. Excellent for teens and adults.