So I’ve become quite into booktube lately and I’ve really got back into reading, which is a good job considering that Literature is half of my degree lmao. I blame Jade The Libra‘s book club and my friend/flatmate Phoenix from Phereads (both of whom you should defo check out), because they both read/choose really good books and review them in a no bullshit style, which I like. Anyway Carla…where are you going with this? Basically I wanted to stretch my blog in further directions and as I’d been loving my Basic Bitch Triesseries, I thought why not throw myself in the deep end; thus Books & Tea was born! It’s basically a series in which I review and recommend (etc etc) books that I’ve read (and my teapot will probably be lurking in the background full of tea about the book in question, but not in a menacing way, in more of an apologetic British way). But yeah, so let’s get into my first ever book review: My Best Friend’s Exorcism by Grady Hendrix!
So from the title and the packaging alone, I was drawn in and I just knew this was gonna be right up my alley. I love all things ghosts, exorcisms, conspiracy theories and paranormal, so of course the word exorcism attracted me. Plus I thought that the whole yearbook theme of the book was so unique and it really added something authentic to a book that’s both lighthearted and paranormal.
The general gist of the book is that Abby is kind of an outsider and no one shows up to her birthday party, until Gretchen, another outsider due to being the new kid in town, is forced to go by her mum. (Relatable) They end up becoming best friends and you get taken along to all of their sleepovers, shopping trips, trips to the lake…and those kinds of trips. As teenagers you see them go through everything together, boys and makeup etc, and that classic LSD phase (jk). They go to Margaret’s lake house and pop a tab and think nothing of it, until Gretchen disappears into the water and doesn’t return until the morning…after which she’s never the same again.
She sees and feels things that aren’t there, she has an apathy to how she looks and acts, and she lashes out at her friends and turns them against one another. The true enormity of the situation is ignored by everyone but Abby as she fights to save a friendship that’s so doomed that the devil inside Gretchen doesn’t want to save it.
It’s basically like a horror comedy, but actually good and enjoyable. It’s set in the 80s and the world it builds is just so authentic and hilarious and brilliant – I didn’t understand the majority of the references being a 90s kid, but I got a kick out of the references to ET and stuff.
As far as the characters go, I think I identified the most with Abby, although I felt that all the girls represented all the different aspects of the lack of self confidence that teenagers face. Like Abby feels like she needs makeup to cover up her zits, Margaret has issues with her weight and within her relationship – it all creates a really natural seeming perspective of teenage life amidst the demonic chaos. There’s also a bit of classic parental alienation which we all face at some point in our lives.
There was also the idea of toxic friendships carefully hidden in the book, as if you take away the demonic possession, the way in which Gretchen is acting (as well as Margaret at times) screams mean girl culture – pitting your friends against each other. We’ve all had one of those friends. But as far as the reason for her strange change in personality if the possession is made up, there’s idea that she sustained some mental damage from being alone in the woods all night and resented her friends for it and wanted to take them down. The mean girl mentality was very clearly shown in Margaret, so I still feel like the whole thing was actually just Gretchen’s revenge, with Abby trying to convince her it was maybe not the best idea.
But enough speculation, let’s dive into the horror. The most horrifying thing in the novel without a doubt, is the gruesome truth behind Margaret’s weight loss. I don’t wanna give too much away, but the description was so grotesque and detailed that I actually felt physically ill and reread it multiple times in disbelief. Other than that, it wasn’t like the scariest book I’ve ever read; I’d say it was more intriguing than anything.
When it comes to the end, I wasn’t really as a fan as it tied absolutely nothing up and it felt a bit like “what else can we do, let’s just do this!”.
Overall, I personally hink that the “demon” or whatever is actually just the evil of Gretchen’s intentions against her friends, and her mean girl mentality, and the exorcism was Abby trying to disassociate the Gretchen she once knew from her actions. It wasn’t the scariest book I’ve ever read but it was still brilliantly done, the elements of horror were definitely there; I’d say that the relatability of the social commentary it creates is probably the most terrifying part, as we sympathise with the characters’ struggles and we’re dragged back through our teenage years again – only we can’t get our memories (or our zits) exorcised sadly.
P.S. I hope you enjoyed my little review – let me know what you think as I’d love to know, and also if you’ve read it throw some tea at me (not literally)!