Published by Quirk Books on May 17th 2016
Genres: young adult, horror
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Abby and Gretchen have been best friends since fifth grade, when they bonded over a shared love of E.T., roller-skating parties, and scratch-and-sniff stickers. But when they arrive at high school, things change. Gretchen begins to act…different. And as the strange coincidences and bizarre behavior start to pile up, Abby realizes there’s only one possible explanation: Gretchen, her favorite person in the world, has a demon living inside her. And Abby is not about to let anyone or anything come between her and her best friend. With help from some unlikely allies, Abby embarks on a quest to save Gretchen. But is their friendship powerful enough to beat the devil?
I can’t say that I knew about My Best Friend’s Exorcism before it was pitched to me by the publisher, but once I started reading it, I liked it immediately. I had a feeling it was going to be a little of a black comedy/horror, and it was a bit. That’s how Horrorstor was for me too, and as much as I wanted to love Horrorstor, in the end, it just fell flat for me. There were things I liked, however, and it was enough for me to read the author’s next book.
Hence why I agreed to review My Best Friend’s Exorcism for the blog. And like Horrorstor, I really liked the writing. I like the way the author turns a phrase, and the sensory language was really well done, as was the pacing. Surprisingly I really liked the female characters, and I do not usually care for female characters written by male authors. I just don’t usually feel they are authentic. In this case, though, I really liked the portryal. I liked the female friendships, and I felt the fragility of them as if they were in my bones. They eventually did start to fall apart, and that was due to the plot obviously, and when that happened, it felt organic as well.
Basically I really, really liked this book until about the last third of it. I loved the 80s pop culture and all the mentions of things I grew up with. I loved that every chapter started with an 80s song title. I think this book is really going to resonate with readers around my age and a little older. So if you’re age 30-45, I definitely recommend this book for the pop culture and humor alone. It was funny, but it was also incredibly creepy and left me unsettled while the tension was building. But when it came to the climax and everything that came after, it just really fell apart.
I didn’t like the way the exorcism was handled, and that’s not a spoiler because of the book title. An exorcism really does happen, and it was completely disappointing, because up until that point, the book was creepy and building to a brilliant crescendo. And it was just corny. I think the author tried to interject some humor into that scene, and it just did not work.
The other thing, is that there was at least one story thread that was never wrapped up. Apparently there was a gruesome death many years ago in the block house where Gretchen seemed to pick up her demon, and that was never followed up on, e.g. we never learned what happened or whether or not that was true. And we also never learned why or where Gretchen’s demon came from, or why it chose her body to possess.
Then there was a racist line of dialogue, and I have to quote it because it really bothered me, and I am not an easily offended person.
Margaret gagged and Abby saw every tendon in her cheeks flex. “Don’t talk…,” Margaret gasped as her throat spasmed. “…about food…”
“But you have to eat,” Abby said. “You look like an Ethiopian.”
I’m sorry, but WHAT? And since when do humans have tendons in their CHEEKS?
Then there was a haah-hugeee plot hole and a graphic animal death. The plot hole involved View Spoiler » a tapeworm that crawled out of Margaret’s body, and this was the reason for her losing so much weight. But apparently her doctors missed a 23 foot tapeworm somehow. Then the book mentions that she was tested for all sorts of ailments including leukemia, and you can honestly tell me that at no point did she have an x-ray that would have caught the tapeworm. And also tapeworms can be discovered from a simple blood test because the patient will have a high white blood cell count. Stupid. « Hide Spoiler
I don’t do animal deaths. I simply hate them. There were expendable characters that could have been killed off, and instead the author went for the emotionally manipulative animal death. By itself, this would have not been enough to make me angry at the book, but with the other things that I mentioned, I’d had enough. This is the second book by this author that has disappointed me, and though I really like his writing, I have no desire to deal with plots that don’t work for me anymore. I liked this one a little better than Horrorstor, but it’s not enough for me to try again.