A book I received after I won a competition and I really didn’t know what to think of it. Hardback and in the style of a leavers school book I was confused yet intrigued.
I’m a fan of anything that goes bump in the night and it takes a lot to scare me but, the beauty of this horror novel is not necessarily in the gore (although there is a lot of it) it’s the disturbing ways in which Gretchen brings hell to her friends.
The novel starts slow, introducing the reader to Abby, the main protagonist, and the events which led to her and Gretchen becoming best friends. It shows the divide between rich and poor families and how quickly it can all change. Their friendship endures but through Abby’s child perspective we gain more from her innocence of the events around her. It’s obvious that Gretchen has a better way of living than Abby, and although Abby may not be able to see it or grasp the world around her the reader is aware that her mum is doing everything she can for her. Their friendship goes from strength to strength as they make their way through the troubles of school and even manage to add a few other girls into their group. While this information is necessary it feels like a big info dump, the novel could have easily started at the lake house and continued from there. Granted, with the beginning we can see how deep and loving their friendship is which is vital to the rest of the story, I just believe some of it could have been drip fed throughout.
Once we get to the lake house the novel picks up pace with the girls experimenting with drugs. The high Abby experience’s isn’t told in too much detail; scary building, trees and a random person appearing from nowhere while she looks for Gretchen who has wandered off after jumping into the lake. They find her and Abby brings her home. This is where it all starts to kick off. Major spoiler, Gretchen is possessed! (Really? You weren’t expecting that?)
Visions and blood are pretty commonplace in a horror so I wasn’t surprised when this was the first incident to happen. As Gretchen is pulled further and further into the demons grasp we are able to see the changes happening through Abby’s eyes. It is everything we normally expect, isolation, bad hygiene and a disregard for others feelings. (Sounds like a few people I knew when I was a teenager). Abby struggles to find a way to connect with her friend who she believes is dealing with issues of the human kind. The novel progresses like this for a while until they fight and Abby leaves Gretchen after trying to help her. The turnaround is quick as Gretchen comes back to school almost like new and starts to re-forge friendships, without Abby.
This is the part of the novel which got to me and it takes a lot for me to emotional invest in a novel like this. Abby is frozen out of Gretchen’s life and everybody else’s, isolated all she can do is sit on the side lines and watch. I have been in the position. When a friend has decided they longer wish to know me yet refuse to cut me out of their life completely and I could not simply cut myself out of theirs in case they needed me. It was heart breaking. Hendrix has captured what it feels like to be “ghosted” realistically; the feelings of abandonment and longing are portrayed well. It is brilliant in its simplicity. Gretchen manipulates everybody with their weaknesses to the point of near death.
I won’t go into the exorcism itself in detail except to say that is not what I expected and it threw me. I can understand why it worked but it didn’t sit right with me. Abby completing the exorcism was the right choice; I just wasn’t sure on the way she did it.
This review may seem a bit “top heavy” but, it is because there is so much groundwork laid before we get to the story that it needs to recognised and acknowledged. I won’t say this book it for everyone, it’s not. There is a lot of work in the beginning leading up to the Abby’s isolation which is where the novel feels more grounded. What I will say is that Hendrix has created a beautiful friendship and shows readers how far friends are willing to go for one another.