By Grady Hendrix
ATTENTION: Potential Spoilers
TW: This is a horror book, so there are some scares. For this book, this is a trigger warning for eating disorders, inappropriate relationships, desecration of a body, animal cruelty and demonic possession (don’t know if that last one is required, but doesn’t hurt).
I initially picked up this book because it looks like an old VHS tape of a horror movie from the 80s. I knew that’s what they were going for. I give this book four out of five stars, and while I love nostalgia just as much as the next person, it just isn’t enough to warrant another star.
This book’s main focus is the best friendship between Abby and Gretchen. Abby, who’s parents struggle financially and are pretty neglectful of their daughter, and Gretchen, who’s parents are religious, overly strict and neglectful in a whole other respect, find solace from their day-to-day lives in each other. Girls from the 80s, 90s and beyond know the power of the relationship between best friends, and back in the decades before social media, those bonds seemed to be even stronger. Abby and Gretchen have two other friends who are best friends, and their group of four made a pretty typical teenage clique.
The beginning of the story is strong, laying the foundation of friendship for the two main characters extremely well, and painting pictures of their home lives that helped to shape them into the people the reader will get to know. When we finally get to the fateful night, one can’t help but be slightly irritated with the teenage apathy towards everything happening. I know I was that insufferable as a teen though, as many of us were, so no big deal. I felt as though there was a lot of opportunity for creepiness in this first part of the book when the initial possession happens, and it’s disappointing that the author doesn’t take advantage of this.
The middle of the book — the very long middle — is all building towards the final scenes. It is very hard to keep the patience for the story. But towards the end, I felt as though understanding Abby’s desperateness was a huge part of being able to be immersed in the story. We need to feel that Abby will do whatever it takes, as well as making sure that we understand she has nothing to lose.
Probably the one thing that was frustrating was the complete ignorance of Abby — every time she gets out manoeuvred by this demon, she acts so surprised and yet continues to let it happen. Everyone else completely falls for the tricks it plays, and Abby, as Gretchen’s best friend, is the only one who is able to see that there is something very wrong with her friend.
Towards the end, it does seem that there is some grotesque details thrown in for the fun of being scary, but I would have taken the suspense and psychological scares over that to be honest. I also think that they could have just thrown in some jump scares. There are two scenes in particular I think could have been cut. I thought I had a pretty tough stomach, but maybe I’m getting soft in my old age.
Finally, the exorcism scene was rather cheesy. I felt they could have done better with a different exorcist character, but the way Abby saves it in the end is pretty fun. I also love how Abby and Gretchen’s friendship endures, in a very realistic way. Those of us who are busy adults understand that we can’t be in contact with our best friend’s constantly, but it’s the knowledge that they’re always there with us, no matter what, that keeps those bonds strong.
All in all, if you’re a horror fan who is looking for some good 80s nostalgia, then this is definitely worth taking a read. It’s especially fun when you realize all the chapter titles are old songs. Happy Horror, everyone!