Bük Kloob is a series of book reviews loosely related to a book club I started.
What is there to say about Grady Hendrix‘s My Best Friend’s Exorcism? Nothing much besides it being a non-stop thrill ride grin through demonic horror via Heathers style eighties humor that is begging for a Sam Raimi style cinematic adaptation. It’s incredible, a simple, skewering satire that delivers on so many levels.
The book follows South Carolina coast teen Abby as she searches for friends in an environment she feels isolated from due to her low socioeconomic standing. She finds a friend in Gretchen, a simple Southern girl with Republican roots who becomes her BFF. They become the inseparable type who call each other nightly to talk about nothing and, in their 1988 high school, they drop acid with friends leaving Gretchen not-as-herself. How? She somehow gets possessed by a demon. Hijinks ensue.
The premise is simple enough – Eighties friends are friends, eighties friends are unfriends, eighties friends become friends again. – turned upside down via the wedge of literal spiritual interloping. It’s a batshit premise that Hendrix carries out with the sort of earnestness that is hard to find in many light fiction books, particularly one so heavily grounded in a style. Paired with hyperbolic images and scenes, it’s hard to miss how truly entertaining a story it is.
Much of this is due to style. Hendrix weaves Abby and Gretchen’s story through a lovely eighties time warp that is simultaneously all about references yet so distant from these details. Sure, Abby loves E.T. as a kid and works at a TCBY as a teen but these additions are texture in a story that is typical in the canon of untypical teens and teen horror. The eighties details and setting adds a sugar sweetness that should be annoying but usually inspires a fit of giggles when paired with characters like a religious principal who wields class harder than a cross and a religious bodybuilder who can literally sniff out evil and scenes where every bird in the tri-state area crashes into a house and where tapeworms play the most unlikely, disgusting role in a weight loss scheme.
It’s also a perfect sendup to both the love of a best friend and demonic possession. On one hand, you witness a rare written relationship where people do things for each other selflessly, when they shouldn’t, at a time when a relationship should crumble. Then again: demons. What bigger test of friendship is there? The tension between these two elements take the book in two different directions, to enter so many tropes, only for one genre to solve the problems of the other.
Exorcism isn’t literary fiction. It is fun, though. It’s a silly, fright filled read perfect for October or any other time that you want a thrill. An intellectual exercise it is not. But a pleasure read? Yes, that it is. Much like The Hike, Exorcism breezes through story with an unrelenting speed but, unlike The Hike, an inventive premise is replaced with snorts (Née: bumps.) of energy pulled from an I Love The ’80s special.
Still: there’s a time and a place for Hendrix’s work. The author of similarly pleasing parodies like the Ikea thriller Horrorstör, My Best Friend’s Exorcism is an antidote to our shitty times. It’s escapist fiction at its best, to a time and place in America and our lives when everything was so much simpler. Now just imagine injecting a demon into this idyllic setting: such is the fun of My Best Friend’s Exorcism.