Keeping Up With The Penguins

Reviews For The Would-Be Booklover

My Best Friend’s Exorcism – Grady Hendrix

I’m a bit obsessed with Grady Hendrix. The concepts for his books always slap, the design is always gorgeous (shout out Quirk Books, love their work!), and he makes horror every bit as readable as a rom-com. So, naturally, I must ration his books – I only read one a year to stop myself gobbling them all down at once. This year’s Hendrix is My Best Friend’s Exorcism, his 2016 novel about… well, you guessed it, a girl whose best friend needs an exorcism.

My Best Friend's Exorcism - Grady Hendrix - Keeping Up With The Penguins
Get My Best Friend’s Exorcism here.
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Let’s set the scene: it’s 1988, and Abby and Gretchen are best friends forever. They formed an alliance as outsiders in their younger years, and it solidified into the close bond that only teenage girls can have. Their circle is completed by Glee and Margaret, and the four of them have a very ’80s adolescence. It’s all going swimmingly until an experiment tripping on acid goes horribly wrong, and Gretchen starts acting differently…

Hendrix is a master of setting the scene. In My Best Friend’s Exorcism, it’s the MUSIC that will take you right there. Every chapter is named after a classic ’80s track or album, and if someone hasn’t already made a Spotify playlist of all the songs Abby and Gretchen listen to, they should.

Gretchen’s possession makes for a fascinating metaphor, and you could read a lot of meanings into it. It’s about coming-of-age, obviously, but also the frustrations of living in a small town, the widening wealth divide between the working and middle classes, and the double standards when it comes to sex and gender.

Plus, My Best Friend’s Exorcism is a testament to the power of (naturally) friendship. Abby is the only one who can see what’s happening to her bestie. She’s scoffed at and scolded by every adult she knows, but she just can’t leave it alone. Eventually, she resorts to calling in an inexperienced gym-bro exorcist, in a really intense denouement.

Don’t let the whimsical nostalgic design, or the “horror comedy” categorisation, fool you. My Best Friend’s Exorcism is a genuinely unsettling read. Hendrix has a real thing for rancid smells and vermin – they’ve both played prominent roles in all the books of his I’ve read (see: Horrorstor). But in this book, he takes it to the next level.

Here’s the thing: I was dancing through My Best Friend’s Exorcism, thoroughly enjoying it, ready to mash that five-star button as soon as I was finished, and then… Picture a big red alarm labelled TRIGGER WARNING going off in your face right now, with loud sirens and bells ringing. There was a horrible dog death, so horrible that it took the wind out of me. It was enough to make me bite my tongue when thinking of recommending this book to anyone.

Oh, and this is marginally less triggering, but still upsetting for those of us Of A Certain Age: one of the characters actually says the line “when you’re old and dried up and thirty“. Another nail in my grave.

A screen adaptation came out last year, on Prime Video – but it didn’t seem to make much of a splash. I don’t think I’ll be seeking it out, for fear that the horrible, nightmare-fuel dog death scene is included in it.

I still love Grady Hendrix. I still really enjoyed My Best Friend’s Exorcism… except that one bit. I can’t get past that one bit. If horror books are supposed to give you nightmares, he did his job a bit too well.

My favourite Amazon reviews of My Best Friend’s Exorcism:

  • “It’s a book. Utter garbage. Belongs in trash” – Dolphin
  • “I love this author but this book blew me away. It was and wasn’t what I was expecting and I left me in tears which was 0% okay.” – Talia Mintz
  • “I saw this book on sale for $2.99 and thought it would be a fun read. A quick word search to check for profanity however showed 17 f-words, about 15 s-words.

    For some people, this will be an endorsement, but for me, I called Amazon and got a refund.” – Alex
  • “It’s got a great cover, and that’s why I bought it. In terms of what’s inside the cover, don’t expect much besides a bunch of lazy 80’s references and an incredibly clichéd “horror” story. “Horror” being in quotation marks because this book is about as scary as an episode of The Rugrats.” – Stuart Nelson


  1. I look forward to your yearly reviews of his books! I can’t help myself… I race through them. The Final Girl Support Group is my fave so far; perhaps a good pick for 2024?

    • Sheree

      May 23, 2023 at 8:40 PM

      Ooooh! It is waiting for me on the shelf – I was going to go with The Southern Book Club’s Guide To Slaying Vampires, but I could definitely be persuaded… 😉

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