A Head Full of Ghosts: A Novel

A Head Full of Ghosts: A Novel - Paul Tremblay I'm not sure I can really put into words exactly what I think of this book. I have a lot of feelings and thoughts, but my brain has too much going on right now to really focus on writing a review. (Maybe I shouldn't have read this so close to NaNoWriMo :/ )

There are some possible issues people could have with this book, on both sides of things (mental illness being associated with possession, as well as the portrayal of Catholicism). Mental illness and possession have been linked before, but I think this book actually did a pretty good job of showing how harmful church interventions can be. So...I can't say anything about the portrayal of schizophrenia, if that's what Marjorie was dealing with, or the portrayal of the church because my family is protestant and I'm not practicing an Abrahamic religion at all. That said, I don't think I've ever seen or read anything that so clearly demonstrated how outrageous and damaging the "Oh no!
Your [family member term] is possessed by a demon! We must exorcise it!" stuff can be. I don't think exorcisms are really done anymore, but there's a good reason for that. People died. Like, a lot.
But...I didn't have any major issue with it. That could be just because I'm not in a position to be harmed by it, idk.

So much, and almost nothing, happened in this book, and I came out of it with way more questions than answers. Was Marjorie schizophrenic? Was their father mentally ill, or otherwise unstable? He sure seemed to be unraveling. What about the mom? She was at least portrayed as being on the way to dipsomania. And then there's Meredith. What the heck, man? Was she possessed? The ending sure seemed to suggest she might be, or maybe that she's being...haunted? IDK. That whole thing with the coffee shop getting cold left me wondering. And oh boy, that twist at the end with Marjorie convincing 8 year old Meredith to poison the whole family? Daaaayum. Poor kid. But that also left me with questions. Did Marjorie get the potassium cyanide? Was it really their father who'd acquired it and was planning to poison them all? And then there are Merry's memories from then. How much can really be trusted? She was only 8, which means she definitely could have remembered a lot, but she was also young enough and traumatized enough to have some false memories. So many questions! I normally hate that, but I liked it in this book because speculating on what was real and what wasn't is fun, and maybe Merry herself doesn't really know what's real in her memories. It wasn't really terrifying (there were a few intense, kinda scary bits, though), or at least not in the way you'd expect. Personally, I've always found it far more terrifying to think about the super-religious families and what they put their kids/whoever through with jumping to the conclusion their loved one is possessed. Human horror is more horrifying than monsters any day.

The blogger bits were kind of interesting, I guess, but I don't feel like they added much to the story, honestly. They were fun to read (and I'd love to find a blog like that one), but I could have lived without them for sure.

I think my favorite thing about this book was how it reminded me a lot of campy horror movies, but in a way that was very self-aware. No, that's not exactly right. Closer to satire, I think. Think Scream, particularly the character Randy from the first two films. This book reminded me of the Scream franchise. Oh wow, I'm really getting off track here. Anyway. The Scream franchise is probably my favorite horror franchise, and part of that is because of how it calls out horror genre tropes/cliches and plays with them. This book did that with possession stories.

So, I really liked this book, but not in the ways I expected. I thought I was going to get some kind of haunted house or possession story, but it was...not really that at all.