My Best Friend’s Exorcism by Grady Hendrix

My Best Friend’s Exorcism is a nostalgia-packed excursion into the life of adolescent girls in the 1980s. We meet Abby and Gretchen when the girls are in fourth grade, as Abby attempts to celebrate her birthday party at a roller-skating rink. Alone with her family, Abby fears no one will show up, but the strange new girl from school appears. What begins as an awful experience for the birthday girl develops into the best friendship either of them could hope for.
We’re provided with snapshots of the friendship between these two girls throughout the narrative, the bulk of the story devoted to character development.
The meat of the story picks up when the girls are in their Sophomore year of high school at the prestigious Albemarle private school. They’re near the top of the class, and they have bright futures ahead of them. That’s when everything changes. Abby finds herself helpless as she watches Gretchen changing into someone she no longer recognizes, and everything becomes a dizzying nightmare of lies and manipulation that she struggles to navigate while learning that there’s more going on than she can easily comprehend.
As a story about friendship and coming-of-age, it’s pretty fantastic, really delving into what it means to be best friends from childhood. As a horror or thriller story, it falls well short of the mark. I have the same issue with this Hendrix novel as I had with The Final Girl Support Group, in that the story grows tedious before it truly begins to get to the point where anything is happening that propels the narrative forward. Much like that novel, when this story starts getting good, it gets great, but it takes an awfully long time getting there. There are points when it appears to be picking up speed, only to revert to a meandering, detail-filled exploration of Abby’s day-to-day life, and it was challenging to make it through those intervals.
The narration provided by Emily Woo Zeller brings this story of youth and friendship to life in a way that it desperately required. Her performance of the various girls, notably Abby and Gretchen, was terrific. The voice provided for Christian (The Exorcist) was amusing and captured the absurd, muscle-bound character in such a way as to make him almost feel real. The audiobook edition of this novel made an otherwise unsatisfactory experience a much better one, and that is due entirely to the quality of the narration provided.

Midnight Horror Show by Ben Lathrop: Narrated by Tee Quillin

A little backstory might be in order for this review.
This story is built around the old Screen Gems release of Universal horror pictures in syndication to television stations in the late 1950s. With the encouragement that the stations bring in a host to introduce the “Shock” and later “Son of Shock” pictures, Screen Gems helped to platform an industry, first popularized by Vampira, the original horror host on television. There have been many others along the way, including notable icons such as Vincent Price, Joe Bob Briggs, and Elvira. Midnight Horror Show captures a nostalgic snapshot of a time that’s lost in memory, turning it into something truly sinister, and telling a fantastic tale along the way.
With a series of unusual killings in the sleepy Iowa town of Dubois in 1985, Detective David Carlson finds himself thrust into the midst of an all-too-real horror show. Investigating the seemingly unrelated crimes, he encounters James West, a strange young man with a fixation on horror and heavy metal, soon to host his own horror show at a local drive-in with a dark history.
James’s obsession with a former television and drive-in host, Boris Orlof, brings Detective Carlson face-to-face with secrets and terrifying truths previously buried in the past. Confronting his own forgotten memories, a file of missing person cases from twenty years before, and the very real possibility that there’s more than simple movie magic taking place behind the scenes, Detective West finds himself fighting a ticking clock to solve the unbelievable mystery and save the young man he’s grudgingly befriended before Halloween night.
Midnight Horror Show is a captivating story that leaves you guessing what’s going to happen right up until the end. When you think you have a handle on what’s next, Lathrop manages to dodge your assumptions and veer off in a different direction.
The narration provided by Tee Quillin is fantastic and believable as he voices the assorted characters populating the tale with seeming ease.