‘Hex’ by Thomas Olde Heuvelt or curses are just a matter of perspective…

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After provoking her so, I had to find some way to contain her!

After so thoroughly enjoying ‘My Best Friends Exorcism’, I didn’t think it possible that any other recent entrant into the horror canon could possibly measure up. Admittedly, I am a hard customer to please. The ability of such books to scare, has been somewhat blunted by persistent exposure. That withstanding the excellence of MBFE, I thought, would completely overshadow any competitors. Little did I know that it would be me that would be overshadowed. By dark and menacing images. And unsettling thoughts. The kind that stop you sleeping….

If, like me, you frequent Twitter and Instagram to connect with fellow bookworms then ‘Hex’ will already have been planted in your subconscious mind. Thanks to some very clever marketing (hands up who doesn’t wish they had been graced with the proof copy, resplendent with needle and thread) and a savvy author that knows how to connect with his audience, this book will have been on the literary radar of many, for quite some time. I admit that this hype swept me along and I also admit wondering whether said hype would result in disappointment (as sometimes it does). Luckily, ‘Hex’: exceeds all expectation and supplants itself ominently in the minds eye of sacrificial readers, like myself.

Hex begins innocently enough. Our sympathies fully aligned with the teens of Black Spring ( once we untwist our minds from the confusing introductory paragraphs that force us to reread and resettle our understanding over). In an act of great mental distortion, the Black Spring Witch is introduced as a character being run over by an antique Dutch barrel organ. While this disturbing image assaults us, we are forced to confront illusion and question what reality is right from the outset. I should have paid more attention, as important clues were there to see, right from the first page. Instead my confusion barrelled me forward from this sensory assault, aligning me with the emerging distrust of the youth- despite it manifesting as an ugly outpouring via their secretive (and ironic) OPEN YOUR EYES social media project.
The story continues, riddled with injustices and sadness. Probing actions and consequences. All the while our fears are heightened and exploited. Imagine being confined to life in Black Spring forever more (horror). Imagine a decaying, malevolent, eyes stitched shut, resurrected witch appearing and hovering at will wherever she feels like. Even the thought of that, in the corner of your bedroom, is enough terror for anyone to endure. No dishcloth can cover that indelible stain! Not knowing what she is thinking, or planning, or muttering is unbearable. No wonder Tyler and his merry band of mischief makers wish to provoke and explore the restrictive boundaries she holds over their lives..

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There is no escape from the opening of her eyes…

Yet, at what cost? For one Owls and Peacocks are now infused with malevolence. Woods are not serene and peaceful. Books can contain untold menace. The Internet, cameras and social media are poor imitators of order and control. Some things are beyond control. We are not safe. Our behaviours have untold consequences. Especially when we do no consider the motivations or influences of others.

Don’t read this book, take up sewing instead!

I have said too much.

Rest forever disturbed, it is my duty to pass this curse on to you: I hope you are ready for the malign influences of Katherine van Wyler….

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‘My Best Friend’s Exorcism’ by Grady Hendrix or a bad trip you want to turn around from?

Before I start writing this blog post, I just have to release the urge to burst into song.. 🎤 ‘I wanna dance with someboooody’🎶. Yes, I have been possessed by Grady Hendrixs’ writing. It is the only thing that can explain exactly why I would feel like busting out cheesy 80s songs, of the likes of Whitney Houston (sorry Whitney fans, but it makes me cringe). Nonetheless, my memory has been ignited and the sounds of my youth are now everywhere! And thank goodness it is, because something is needed to offset the abject terror that this natty new novel pulls off. How many times do you read a novel that makes you feel warm and fuzzy, whilst also scaring the bejeezus out of you?

This book has been on my radar for quite some time. The premise sounded like just my kind of read- spooky, quirky and a little bit unusual. Heathers crossed with The Exorcist (whatever, Heather). Needless to say, I have been waiting patiently for release date. Imagine my delight, then, when the lovely @cyn_murphy of Twitter and Point Horror appreciation fame pointed me in the direction of an ARC (advanced reader copy). Our shared love of teen horror could only lead to one logical conclusion, in this current nostalgic climate towards such things : a shared read-along! Like a mini-book club via the Internet we simultaneously tweeted our fear and joy as we worked through its glittering pages. What a delight it was to know that someone else was also feeling the same way I was about this brilliant book! Grady Hendrix even tagged along with a few choice comments (book God, that he has now become). I hope he realises what gold he has produced and continues to create, in the same vein. Can I get an ‘I ❤️ Grady Hendrix’ badge please..

While it is difficult to pin down exactly what it is that makes this book so magical, with its unusual blend of ingredients (without spoiling the plot), what is apparent is that Hendrix must be a very insightful writer to draw such unexpected elements together and to make them sing. By his own admission, he used his wife’s letters, in order to understand more closely the precise nature of teenage female friendship and perhaps this is what speaks the most to me when I read it. The intensity. The love. The fallings out. All the pent up angst. Heightened sensitivity and emotion. The struggle to find yourself and your place in the world. It all translates to the experience, bourne forth and lightly worn throughout the narrative. It feels genuine and this marks the skill of a great writer: he stands in someone else’s shoes and makes us believe what they see and experience. I take my lace- gloves off to him.

One thing I will say is this, Grady Hendrix has pulled off an endearingly ambiguous read, full of latent hormones and repressed emotions. He knows how to alternate abject fear with laugh out loud moments- enhancing both for the better. I wanted to hide under my duvet at pivotal moments, shake my fist with rage and rub my mascara- streaked face clean and crimp my hair, sneak out of my house for a nighttime adventure in my local woods (not really) and wonder what had happened in the morning. He has made the 80s cool again and banished all of the negative associations our youths hold, by showing us the great bits and the things we have built from these times (thinking of my own enduring friendships, with people that have grown with me). Perms are no longer the living embodiment of hell! However, you will never be able to listen ‘I Think We’re Alone Now’ by Tiffany again, may want to ditch your phone and here more will NEVER want to speak to anyone called Andy ever again.

By the power of Genesis!