The other Grady Hendrix book was the one I really wanted to like. The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires had its moments and its subtext was a clever metaphorical look at societal exploitation. But I couldn’t connect with the characters the way Hendrix wanted me to and I felt like he got too caught up in the concept to execute well.
That’s not the case here. While both are 4-star reads in their own ways, this felt like a more realized book. Because while the exorcism stuff is interesting (I’ll get to that), Hendrix never loses the central narrative of friendship in this one from the first page to the last. I really liked how he explored the complexity of Abby and Gretchen’s relationship, making them feel like fully realized characters whilst they navigate through the hellscape of Reagan Era politics in the mid-south.
And that setup made the payoffs work well enough. Hendrix didn’t focus much on the exorcist for my taste but the possession aspect (again, I think he’s using metaphor here for something else but I won’t say what) was done well and when Abby went into overdrive to protect her friend, the groundwork Hendrix had laid throughout the book’s first half made the stakes feel high.
I’m disappointed to see that the movie bombed as I felt this one was quite cinematic. Everything young adult has to be a Stranger Things riff nowadays. I hope someone gets another chance to do it because it could be fun. In the meantime, I’m going to read more of Hendrix’s stuff.