Well, this is awkward.
Let’s address the elephant in the library (ha… ha…) I apologize for my absence. Sometimes you read 11 books in a month, and sometimes you read, well, none.
For the month of May, however, I decided to fall back into my reclusive, book-binging ways and boy oh boy do I have a few goodies for you.
*YouTuber voice* And without further ado, let’s get into it.
My Best Friend’s Exorcism
Firstly, we need to address how fucking fantastic this book cover and its sleeves are. The hardcover version is laid out exactly how you’re imagining your parent’s high school yearbooks are, instantly setting you up for a fun (albeit dark) reading experience. The insides are riddled with signatures and lengthy variations of H.A.G.S all addressed to one of the main characters, Gretchen, and well… you know what? I’ll insert a photo. It’s great.
The book is set in the 1980’s amid the beginning of the very real satanic panic. The culture of the 80’s and the whole ‘there-is-evil-controlling-the-world-I-think-my-neighbor-might-be-sacrificing-a-cat-help-me-Jesus” mentality that was quite literally a thing, drives the plot of this horror-comedy that is otherwise about deeply rooted friendships and the lengths we go to in order to preserve the ones we hope will stand the test of time.
Abby and Gretchen have been the best of friends since 5th grade. It’s that pure and heartwarming friendship that’ll leave you feeling nostalgic for the friend that you grew up with during your awkward phase. Things take a turn for the worse, however, when the girls find themselves on a bad acid trip in the middle of the woods during high school. Gretchen wanders off to God knows where and disappears for a period of time, concerning the other girls. That being said, Gretchen’s strange behavior upon her return ends up being much more worrisome. Abby becomes convinced that a demonic possession is to blame for the wedge driven between them, and commits to doing whatever it takes to save her best friend.
Now, this is not a terribly scary book. I don’t imagine many readers will be losing any sleep or reaching for their holy water. With that in mind, a few intensely detailed visuals of several particularly disturbing scenes might make your skin crawl a bit. Grady Hendrix does a wonderful job of delving deep into some squirmy shit, while simultaneously keeping the overall tone lighthearted and comedic. I was extremely impressed to discover that Hendrix is a male author being that the inner workings and nuances of female friendships are so well depicted.
All in all, this book was one of a kind. It was a novel that was hard not to inhale, and more than anything, it was just plain fun. I really look forward to reading Horrorstör, another one of Hendrix’s novels, which is set up like an Ikea catalogue. (This guy is so cool don’t @ me).
So, my Grandma loaned me this book. Her words? “Oh, Kirsten. I just finished this book. It was pretty disturbing. I think you’d like it.”
For all twenty-six years of her life, Chyna Sheppard has been a survivor. Despite an extremely unfortunate and borderline abusive childhood, she has come out on top and allowed herself to open up to a single person: her best friend Laura. Laura takes Chyna home with her for their spring break, where the unimaginable happens. Sociopath and serial killer Edgler Foreman Vess sneaks into the home, and begins brutally slaughtering all of its sleeping occupants, Laura and her family included.
This book does not relent. The suspense was literally anxiety inducing at times, and the beginning of the book is extremely graphic. What makes it so addicting is the insane attention to detail throughout the entirety of the novel. Koontz has the ability to accurately describe the precise thoughts and idiosyncrasies the characters have exactly how I imagine I would have them myself if ever found in that horrific situation. For example, when Vess enters into Chyna’s guest room, he finds the room completely undisturbed and seemingly unoccupied. Chyna’s suitcase was still packed and hidden away, her bed still made, her toiletries put away. There was nothing to indicate that someone was staying in that room that night. And yet, as Chyna hides under the bed absolutely silent, she wonders if perhaps the sink had water droplets from when she washed her hands earlier. And, what if the hand towel is still damp from when she dried them? Will he notice? Will these small details be what gives her away and costs her her life?
The book switches off between the perspectives of Chyna and Edgler Vess, both of which are ridiculously complex characters. While Koontz’s gift to so thoroughly show and not simply tell is what made the book so unique, it was also why I gave the novel only 4/5 stars. Because I had become so familiar with the minds of the characters, I found myself questioning a few decisions that didn’t seem to really fit what I had grown to know about them. There was also an occasional excess of details that felt tedious at times.
While this wasn’t for the faint of heart, I did enjoy the book as a whole. This was my first Koontz novel, and I have a sneaking suspicion that it won’t be my last.
The Off Campus Series
So there are four books in this series, and I’ve decided to do them all in a single review.
Dude, these covers kill me. Full disclosure, I read these books on the Kindle app on my iPhone, so I was spared the quizzical and judgmental looks I imagine I would have received if I had read one of these bad boys out in public.
Speaking of bad boys, AMIRITE?
All of these books fall in the still fairly new genre of “New Adult”. On Goodreads, New Adult is described as “bridging the gap between Young Adult and Adult genres. It typically features protagonists between the ages of 18 and 25 with the cap at 30ish.” While I would agree with all of this, I also have come to find that it also means “toooooonnnnnnnnns of sex”. Seriously.
Regardless, I really enjoyed this series. The common denominator throughout all of these books are the male protagonists. All four boys are good friends or roommates that play on the same college hockey team. I really like the fluidity of novels that reference one another, and it’s nice to have familiar names and characters that you already know pop up in one another’s books. I found that this allowed me to get more involved in the story, as well as more invested in the well-being of the characters and the relationships that they form.
The structure of all four books are generally the same: the guy is a huge player until the girl comes along that makes him want to change his ways and be monogamous. What really makes this series a standout among the million other books with the exact same storyline is that all of the characters are likable. The author doesn’t waste your time with petty and immature plot lines, because all of the main players are impressively reasonable. The issues that the characters do encounter in their stories are actually valid, and their resolutions are equally as believable.
The books also have their subtle yet distinguishable differences. The one with the best character backgrounds and development (The Deal), the most sexually charged (The Score), the most obnoxious female protagonist (The Goal), etc.
I always enjoy a more mindless read in between all of the emotionally taxing horror/suspense novels that I read, and this series allowed me that. While there definitely is a stigma surrounding new adult (thanks a lot, Fifty Shades of Grey), I would say that this series did the genre right. But can we be a bit more discreet with the covers guys? No? Sex sells, you say? Well, alright then.
See you next month!
(no promises tho)