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Literature / My Best Friends Exorcism

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A 2016 horror novel by Grady Hendrix.

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?

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My Best Friend's Exorcism contains examples of:

  • Alpha Bitch: Margaret has been one since they were ten, when she intentionally planned for her much fancier party to be on the same day as Abby's so no one would go.
  • Break the Haughty:
    • Margaret is sort of a mean friend, although Gretchen and Abby still like her. She is completely destroyed by the demon inside Gretchen feeding her a tapeworm, which results in her nearly starving to death.
    • Brother Lemon is The Fundamentalist, but he is broken when he sees how truly horrible an exorcism is.
    • Possessed Gretchen, who is an absolute asshole (although it does go along with demonic possession) and is broken by the end of the exorcism.
  • The '80s: The setting for almost all of the novel and a major part of its appeal.
    • The book also touches upon both the fun and the not so fun parts of this time period, with the not so fun part being amplified by how this takes place in the Deep South and one of the main locations is a Christian Private School.
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  • Abusive Parents: Gretchen's, of the "religious freaks" variety.
  • Aerith and Bob: Absolutely classic 1980s names (Abby, Margaret), but...Glee?
  • Arc Words: "DNQ", "dearly not queerly".
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: In the ending a certain character confesses to abducting a highschooler, forcing another highschooler to steal a dead fetus from a morgue, shooting a dog and buying alcohol for minors. The confession is false, by the way.
  • Big Beautiful Woman: Margaret, who suffers with Weight Woe nonetheless, and the demon gets her by getting her to eat a tapeworm that cause her to lose weight far, far too fast.
  • Deep South: The book takes place in the American South
    • Their school's Spirit Week has a day themed after slavery.
    • Christian Private School. In the 80s. In the south. You do the math.
    • Margaret is a Southern Belle who comes from a wealthy plantation family.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Again, the book doesn't shy away with the bad parts of the era either.
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    • Gretchen's parents make her go to a doctor who checks to see if she's a virgin because they hear sexual noises coming form her room at night, an illusion the demon created.
    • Abstinence only sex education is thoroughly panned by the book.
    • Their school had a slave themed day for Spirit Week.
    • Gretchen's ultra religious parents vehemently support Ronald Reagan. While he was very popular during his two terms, many present day younger Americans have decidedly more negative views of him due to his administration's active sabotage of measures that could have lessened the AIDs epidemic and the consensus that his foreign policy played a major role in the present instability of South America and the Middle East.
      • The number of people who respect him dropped even more after recordings of him saying some very racist things with Nixon surfaced.
    • The Satanic Panic is brought up more than once.
  • Distant Finale: Revealing that, even though Gretchen and Abby lost touch over the years, they were always there for each other in their respective darkest hours, and Gretchen cared for Abby as she died. They didn't make it long enough to see Halley's Comet again, but they were together.
  • Divinely Appearing Demons: A variant. Gretchen is mentioned over and over again to be very pretty, but she goes way past The Ophelia when she's trying to fight off the demon, refusing to sleep or shower, which causes her to appear hideous. The Wham Shot that reveals she gave in is that Gretchen has regained her angelic appearance and then some.
  • Don't Go Into the Woods: Surprisingly subverted. All the way through the novel, it appears that Gretchen has either been possessed or attacked in the woods while tripping on LSD. However, right at the end, it turns out that Gretchen was probably possessed during summer camp and the LSD trip in the woods was just the most obvious example of it becoming clear to Abby.
  • Drugs Are Bad: Played with, and firmly believed by every adult in the story. Gretchen's parents instantly refuse to believe Abby and slander her as a drug dealer when she admits that she first noticed Gretchen acting weird after they tried LSD.
  • Face of an Angel, Mind of a Demon: When Gretchen is still attempting to fight off her possession, she looks (and smells) like an absolute wreck and everybody says so. However, the minute she gives in, she looks even more beautiful than ever and nobody accepts that there's anything wrong with her. Except Abby.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: Abby and Gretchen, adorably. Gretchen is the only person who doesn't go to the more popular girl', Margaret's, party and so the only person who shows up to Abby's. Even better, she does what nobody else will and tells Abby that she, and not the other girl, was right.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Played with. The prologue only reveals that Abby and the Exorcist make it out of the experience alive and that Abby will eventually land an office job.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Brother Lemon redeems himself for abandoning Abby during the exorcism by exonerating Abby and pretending he kidnapped Gretchen.
  • "I Know You're in There Somewhere" Fight: A classic example between Gretchen and Abby when Abby realises the exorcism isn't working. She saves her best friend through the "power of Phil Collins, ET The Extra Terrestrial, and Seventeen".
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Most of the people possessed!Gretchen ruins did not deserve what they got. Wallace did. He's immediately shown to be an unfaithful boyfriend and punched Abby when she accuses him of rape. Gretchen gets him drunk at a championship game, he collapses and starts vomiting in the middle of the field, and becomes a social pariah.
    • Played with in the book's opening. Margaret tried to sabotage Abby's birthday by having her fancier party on the same day, but Abby has a close encounter with a popular upperclassman at the roller skating rink where her party happened, and he winds up coming into class to check on her in school. Since Margaret had accused Abby of lying, she winds up looking like an idiot.
  • Mercy Kill: Brother Lemon thinks of exorcisms that results in death as this, as dying is preferable to being driven mad by a demon. Ultimately subverted as Abby manages to get him away from Gretchen and complete the exorcism without killing her.
  • Nice Guy: Father Morgan, just about the only well-adjusted deeply religious person in the book. He reject's Glee's advances and manages to stop her from killing herself. His only real fault is that he falls for Possessed!Gretchen's ruse and thus unintentionally gaslights Abby when trying to give her good advice.
    • Double subverted with Brother Lemon who goes from the only person who believes Abby to another fanatically religious Christian and a coward who nearly kills Gretchen and abandons Abby when the exorcism doesn't seem to work. He redeems himself in the end when he sacrifices his reputation to keep Abby out of prison. He turns himself in for Gretchen's imprisonment, and makes Abby out to be the hero who only listened to him to save Gretchen.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: How the demon possess Gretchen. She describes feeling someone - and she doesn't know what - touch her neck all night.
  • The Power of Love: The power of Christ does not compel anything because Brother Lemon isn't as strong in his faith as he likes to think and Abby's not a true believer. The only thing that works is Abby invoking the touchstones of their friendship and telling Gretchen she loves her.
  • Red Herring: The LSD trip. Hendrix implies throughout that this caused Gretchen's possession, but it seems that the demon probably possessed her far earlier, during the summer camp trip.
    • Gretchen's parents (probably). Abby asks them to their faces if Gretchen's father raped her and caused her freakout. However, while Gretchen's parents are domineeringly religious and often physically abusive, there is no indication that this in particular led to her possession.
  • Romantic Two-Girl Friendship: Abby and Gretchen, of course. The only thing that takes them out of the Platonic Life-Partners is when Abby, in the denouement, tells Gretchen, "I love you dearly ''and'' I love you queerly." (They always said that they loved each other "dearly but not queerly.")
  • Sexy Priest: Father Morgan. It doesn't end well for Glee.
  • Talking the Monster to Death: Abby's monologue during the exorcism about all the things she and Gretchen love, their hobbies, and memories. Amazingly, it works.
  • Teacher/Student Romance: Invoked by the demon. It exploits Glee's crush on Father Morgan to hurt her by writing a series of fake love notes heavily involving Bible verses, the obvious implication being that they're from him. When Glee discovers it's all a ruse, she tries to kill herself.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist:
    • Subverted for the most part. Gretchen's parents are abusive and, at best, completely unhelpful when their fears of demons actually come true, and the Catholic school is mostly only interested in kicking Abby out and/or making her face drugs charges.
    • However, Abby and Brother Lemon both qualify. Abby goes along with the exorcism, despite Gretchen's pleading and the physical pain she's in, to free her from the devil, which is a thoroughly justified by the end of the novel.
    • Brother Lemon does scare the shit out of Abby by kidnapping and repeatedly violently attacking Gretchen, and then, even worse, he abandons Abby with the possessed Gretchen mid-exorcism. However, he redeems himself and shows himself to be one of these when he returns and takes the rap for Abby.
  • Wham Line: Abby finally calls Gretchen's "boyfriend" from camp and discovers that, although Gretchen has apparently been writing to him for months, he hasn't heard from her since summer. Who has she been talking to?
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