Friday 21 July 2017

ReadItDaddy's YA Chapter Book of the Week - Week Ending 21st July 2017 - "My Best Friend's Exorcism" by Grady Hendrix (Quirk Books)

Our YA Chapter Book of the Week may definitely not be for kids, but if you're a bit of an 80s addict and fancy a hairspray-and-synth-pop powered trip down memory lane, step right this way...
Grady Hendrix is, without doubt, one very funny guy. After ruthlessly mocking our obsession with a certain Swedish furniture and home goods manufacturer in "HorrorStor", he's now turned his attention to all things 80s in "My Best Friend's Exorcism".

Clad in a cover to die for, looking like an old stressed VHS videocassette (No Betamax? For shame!) with the cheesiest of cheesy 80s movie-style illustration, this starts to look awesome right from the outset.

Dipping inside we find the story of two friends, Abby and Gretchen. Drawn together after a completely disastrous roller-disco birthday party, the two swiftly become inseparable and as they start high school, they pretty much follow the same path millions of teens in the 80s trod fairly warily (often to a soft-rock soundtrack).

After a strange incident one night involving Gretchen skinnydipping and ending up running around stark naked in the woods, things seem to return to normal for a wee while until Gretchen starts to behave rather oddly.

What's more, weird stuff starts to happen around her. She knows things, things no one else should know - and soon Abby and Gretchen's friendship is tested to the utmost as Gretchen slides further into her own insane and obsessive world, eventually cutting Abby out entirely in favour of their other friends.

But is there more to Gretchen's weird behaviour than meets the eye? Perhaps Abby and Gretchen need to consult more than just a self-help manual to work out why she's behaving so oddly.

The book beautifully builds up the slow burn of Gretchen and Abby's relationship before the pivotal moment where the entire tone changes for the darker, and we're drawn into a twisted mystery shot through with a metric ton of 80s pop culture references that'll make anyone who wore a pair of deely boppers on their head grin like a watermelon. No doubt the combination of 80s cheesiness and dark plotlines in TV series like Stranger Things (and the huge success of that series) has given a lot of authors food for thought, and got them thinking about their own formative years if they too were part of the 80s teen thing (as I was).

I was completely hooked on this from the outset, and though we've popped it firmly into a YA slot (teen and adult themes, as I said - definitely not one for kids), it's definitely something that most folk my age will get more of a kick out of, folk who lived through the 80s, the terrible fashions, the amazing movies and music, and an outright obsession with anything issuing forth from the other side of the pond (as we still quaintly refer to the US).

It's gloriously dark and funny stuff (with the very best chapter titles you'll ever see!) Quirk are knocking it out of the park so often at the moment that we seriously don't know what they're going to come at us with next - but we know it'll be awesome!

"My Best Friend's Exorcism" by Grady Hendrix is out now, published by Quirk Books (kindly supplied for review).