Quirk Books, out now
Eighties High School Hell.
My Best Friend’s Exorcism is the second novel from Grady Hendrix. Set in an American High school in the ’80s, at first glance I wasn’t convinced by the premise – the protagonist, Abby, is concerned by the changes in her best friend, Gretchen, and comes to believe she’s possessed. I soon found out I was wrong.
The novel charts Abby and Gretchen’s firm friendship from its outset, at Abby’s birthday party when they’re in fifth grade. We see them grow and deal with various issues such as acne, overbearing parents, and the perpetual ‘no one understands’ feeling that everyone recognises at some point. At the age of sixteen, Abby and Gretchen visit the woods with two friends, and Gretchen comes back changed. At first Abby is the only one that sees this, and even when it’s noticed elsewhere, Gretchen’s problems are put down to teen rebellion. Abby is the only one who can get Gretchen the help she so sorely needs.
Each chapter bears the title of a well-known ’80s pop song, and the book itself is formatted in the style of a high school yearbook with messages and signatures from ‘friends’ on the endpapers. The author paints a vivid picture of school friendships and the atmosphere of high school, and you really root for Abby as she fights to save Gretchen from whatever evil has possessed her – against the staggering odds of no-one (not school, her parents, other friends) believing her.
Abby and her friends – their struggles with the usual teen problems – are all very well drawn, and you find yourself quickly sucked into the engaging narrative. Ultimately this is a book about friendship, and what it takes for that to endure. A thoroughly enjoyable read.
Verdict: A tale of friendship against enormous odds set against a backdrop of 80s High School. Great fun. 9/10