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Horror

26118005Title: My Best Friend’s Exorcism
Author: Grady Hendrix
Pages: 336
Year: 2016
Publisher: Quirk Books
Time taken to read: 1 week
Rating: 5/5

Goodreads synopsis: 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?

I’m not even sure where to start with this one. This book thrilled me. The day I finished it, I was reading it on the subway holding my breath, so desperate to get to the end and find out if everyone was going to be okay or not. I didn’t realize how literal the title of this book is, and let me tell you, her best friend’s exorcism is intense. The whole book is intense. There were a few moments more towards the end that really shocked me, and I have to talk about it a little bit, so please skip to the next paragraph if you haven’t read this book and don’t want any spoilers…. Okay, the best part in my opinion is when Gretchen kills her dog. Like, all the pieces of what she’s doing to her friends are slowly coming together, and by this point you realize she’s become totally evil, but like, you really don’t know until she kills her freaking dog. Like even when you realize she’s setting things up to kill her dog, you don’t believe she’s really gonna do it, and I don’t even like dogs that much (SORRY) but I was really hoping she wasn’t gonna do it, but then she DID and I was like, holy moly. So then when the exorcism was happening I was FREAKING out because I was like, oh my god, what if she’s not possessed, what if she’s just evil, because the exorcist can’t get it out, and my stomach was in knots as I was tearing through the pages like OH MY GOD WHAT IS GOING TO HAPPEN and then it happened and then I could breathe again, and it was wild.

Anyway, I was particularly struck by how well the main characters are developed. There are four best friends around which this story is centered, and they are all very unique characters with distinct voices. And their distinct voices felt so real. Everything about their dialogue and Abby’s inner monologue sounded so authentic, so much that I was really shocked when I realized this was written by a man, and I wonder how he learned to write teenage girls so well. So I will have to read his other book, I think, and see if that one is just as good.

The only thing I didn’t like was the epilogue that shows, like, the entire rest of their lives. I totally did not need that. I didn’t really want to think of these kids as adults. I just wanted to see this moment in their lives. But overall it was fantastic, and I am definitely adding it to my list of favorites. And I will be recommending it to everyone who starts a conversation with me for, like, the next month. Also, bonus points for a dope cover. Anyway, My Best Friend’s Exorcism is horrifyingly wonderful, so please read it and then come back and tell me that you also loved it.

18498558Title: Bird Box
Author: Josh Malerman
Pages: 272
Year: 2014
Publisher: Ecco (HarperCollins)
Time taken to read: 4 days
Rating: 5/5

Goodreads synopsisSomething is out there, something terrifying that must not be seen. One glimpse of it, and a person is driven to deadly violence. No one knows what it is or where it came from. Five years after it began, a handful of scattered survivors remains, including Malorie and her two young children. Living in an abandoned house near the river, she has dreamed of fleeing to a place where they might be safe. Now that the boy and girl are four, it’s time to go, but the journey ahead will be terrifying: twenty miles downriver in a rowboat–blindfolded–with nothing to rely on but her wits and the children’s trained ears. One wrong choice and they will die. Something is following them all the while, but is it man, animal, or monster?

I originally discovered Bird Box in a bookstore in Boston in the winter, and last week I came across it in my hometown’s library while picking out a book to take with me on vacation. I thought a horror novel might not be the best option for a trip to Disney World, but the synopsis of the book had me so curious, so I checked it out. If you haven’t read this book, please do not read on, because I don’t want to spoil it for you. It is absolutely the best book I’ve read all year. If I hadn’t been on vacation, I would have read this in a matter of hours. Malerman’s writing style is clear and a little poetic, not stiff at all, so that it really feels like Malorie’s thoughts. I liked the way it switched between the present, on the river, and Malorie’s past, in the house. It sort of jumped all over her timeline, revealing secrets in a very strategic and powerful way. We know the eventual fate of Malorie’s housemates, but it is a while before we know exactly how they get there, which kept me tearing through the book, desperate to find out what happens to them.

The only problem that I have with this book is that there are still big questions left unanswered at the end. Is Gary really immune, and why? And what was it that would drive them insane if they saw it?! But I have rationalized to myself why we don’t get these answers: they don’t matter to Malorie’s survival. She can’t know what the creatures are, because to know would be to see them, and to see them would be to die. She has to accept that she’ll never know because she wants to live. As for Gary, well, it’s possible Gary doesn’t even know why he’s immune, so he couldn’t reveal it to us. Still, I’m dying to know the answers to these questions. If anyone has any theories, I would love to hear them. I always pictured the creatures as being in a human form but more like a shadow, pitch black with no features, like looking into a human-shaped hole. I have no ideas about Gary, though. I’ll just say that if Malerman puts out a sequel, I will be first in line to read that book.