Before I even opened the book I couldn’t wait to begin this story. Although this was definitely a bit of a cover-buy/nostalgia vibe, I’m happy to report the inside was just as good as the outside.
The story begins with an interesting anecdote about no one showing up to Abby’s birthday but Gretchen. It was in this moment that they became best friends and their lives together were entwined from fifth grade. Fast forward to Sophomore year of high school and Abby, Gretchen, and their other two close friends have the dream life. That is, until, one fateful night in the woods where Gretchen gets lost overnight.
Soon, the effervescent Gretchen begins to change both physically and emotionally. She can’t sleep, stop throwing up, she’s breaking out, and she even refuses to shower. On top of this, she begins to attack and distance herself from her friends.
Then things keep escalating and they don’t stop escalating, in the best (or, if you’re one of the characters, the worst) way ever. This book read like the best cult-classic 80s movie and I loved it. The horror elements followed the ‘typical’ exorcism type behavior but expanded and updated the genre to make it fit the POV of teen girls, the 80s, and a little bit of camp culture that has taken over the genre since the seminal film and book ‘The Exorcist.’ A great example of this is that we don’t get a serious, elderly priest to we get a hot (and hot-headed) young member of a religious troupe who is the main point of faith in the story.
The book is like young female friendship, moving, full of ups-and-downs, hilarious, frantic, stressful, heart-breaking, heart-warming, loving, and disgusting…all at once. The friendship and female empowerment throughout the book is a very strong element. In fact, I’d go as far to say that this is one of the most feminist horror books I’ve read in some time. Why? It takes teenage girls seriously, it lets a young female take center stage, and it never demands or requires a man, or even adult, to come in and save the day. This book is a reminder that young girls are capable, strong, and just the right amount of fool-hardy.
Some truly horrific things do take place in this deceivingly bubble-gum-packaged book. So, this is not for the faint of heart. From gross-out body scares to the intensity of a possession this book really goes beyond the effects of a possession on just one person. Many books and stories tend to focus on the person possessed but the fact that Abby, the friend and hopeful avenger of the exorcism, is the main focus and the POV we get from her is fantastic. Additionally, being able to see the dire consequences of Gretchen’s possession and the true reaches of evil and madness and how they affect those closest to us.
If you’re looking for an entertaining, quick read with great horror elements and a spotlight on the power of female friendship don’t hesitate to pick this up.