Book Review: A Head Full of Ghosts


The lives of the Barretts, a normal suburban New England family, are torn apart when fourteen-year-old Marjorie begins to display signs of acute schizophrenia.

To her parents’ despair, the doctors are unable to stop Marjorie’s descent into madness. As their stable home devolves into a house of horrors, they reluctantly turn to a local Catholic priest for help. Father Wanderly suggests an exorcism; he believes the vulnerable teenager is the victim of demonic possession. He also contacts a production company that is eager to document the Barretts’ plight. With John, Marjorie’s father, out of work for more than a year and the medical bills looming, the family agrees to be filmed, and soon find themselves the unwitting stars of The Possession, a hit reality television show. When events in the Barrett household explode in tragedy, the show and the shocking incidents it captures become the stuff of urban legend.

Fifteen years later, a bestselling writer interviews Marjorie’s younger sister, Merry. As she recalls those long ago events that took place when she was just eight years old, long-buried secrets and painful memories that clash with what was broadcast on television begin to surface–and a mind-bending tale of psychological horror is unleashed, raising vexing questions about memory and reality, science and religion, and the very nature of evil.

First line of the book: “This must be so difficult for you, Meredith.” 

Title: A Head Full of Ghosts
Author: Paul Tremblay
My Edition: A paperback from William Morrow, published in 2016 with 286 pages.
Age: Adult, but from 17 and up.
Genres: Horror, Thriller, Mystery, Fantasy, Paranormal

I have subscribed to almost every book-mail out there, so I get my fair share of new and upcoming books. This really caught my attention because on the front cover it says “A Head Full of Ghosts scared the living hell out of me, and I’m pretty hard to scare – Stephen King”. Which as you probably understand, made me super excited.


The plot of this book is just really interesting. Not only does it have three different POV, but this way of kind of, dividing the book shows us past, present and this “objective” side of the story.

First and foremost we read from “8 year old” Merry’s point of view. Now, the reason why I say that is because we read from Merry’s adult memory of what happened to her as an 8-year old before, during and after “The Possession” was filmed. The reason why this is so incredibly interesting and, made me dive into the book, is because it feels kind of naive, childish maybe and we’re not really sure if what Merry remembers as a kid is the truth. Kids have a way of changing traumatic events so that they’ll either feel more comfortable or make them feel more scary and cool to tell to others. We all exaggerated a story when we were kids because we wanted to seem more cool and interesting.

The “present” is what’s happening in the moment, when Merry as an adult is re-telling the story through interviews with a woman named Rachel. Rachel is going to write a non-fiction book about what happened to Merry’s family all those years ago. We kind of get a feeling of who Merry is as an adult, and her personality blooms more through these pages and I for one felt drawn to her as an adult. Not only did we have a lot of the same interests, but she’s also really good about talking about her traumas from when she was a kid. It’s like she’s taken a real step away from what happened and she’s telling it exactly like she could remember it.

The third angle of the story is Karen Brissette’s POV. She publishes a series of blog posts about “The Possession” where she breaks down the show and uses a huge amount of references to other horror movies and books. She talks about how things could have happened, and how things could have been set up to happen – and it makes an interesting part of the book.

For me, the plot was so easy to “get interested in” if I can put it that way. Much because I love horror, and especially everything possession-wise, so this book kind of made me want to be more open to reading horror books and especially adult horror. So Ida, now, I’m finally ready to read some Stephen King when you move in. I absolutely loved the plot, it’s so interesting, and it’s so fast-paced, and I had times when I decided that I had to put the book down or else I might experience some nightmares. While reading the last something pages last night, I had to actually look behind me and out in the bedroom, because I was starting to get scared.

4,5 stjerner
I absolutely love the writing, but in a whole different way that usually catches me. The writing is kind of mysterious, and it sounds so weird, but that was the feeling I got when I read the book. It’s mysterious because it gives us what we need to understand the situation, but it holds something back, some vital information that we feel that we need, and we end up wondering and thinking about what we just read.

It’s kind of eerie, but so intensely page-turning it made my elbow fall asleep a lot of times. I think that a part of me wanted there to be more, more descriptions of what happened, more descriptions of everything really, but that “hole” made me think and kind of make the scenes in my head. I could so perfectly see how the characters looked like, and how they changed and how their voices were like. And it actually made the story more scary.

There are a lot of different characters in this book, but there are four characters that I kind of want to talk about. And that’s the four main characters of the book, and their relationship between each other.

The father of the book, I don’t know if we ever get to know his actual name, but I’m just going to call him the father. The father, when we start the book seems like a loving and caring father. He tries his best to get a job, and he tries his best to retain the little marriage he has, while also trying to be a good father. Throughout the book I feel like he’s the character that goes through the biggest character developments of the book. Not only does he suddenly become very indulged in religion, but he also starts to believe that religion is going to save everyone. This kind of made him the protagonist of the story, but he’s a protagonist I couldn’t like, I hated him actually. It’s not that I don’t accept religion, because I really do and I respect people who really belive in a God. But the father, he goes blinded by his faith, and he suffers from it.

The mother of the book, still don’t know if she’s ever named, sometimes feel like the antagonist of the story. She’s the non-believer, the woman who goes against “everything” the bible says a woman should do, and she’s the character I really felt for throughout this book. I felt really, really bad for her. It’s like she goes from being a strict, but loving mother, to being a mother, a wife and a woman who all in all gives up. And she too, suffers from it.

Marjorie was that one character who actually freaked me out so much, I didn’t really know what to believe. She’s this 13/14-year old who suddenly shows signs of possession. So she does all these creepy things, all those classic demon-possession things, and it freaks us out because she’s so young – and there’s nothing normal about it. What also freaked me out about her was that I could never really place who was the “real” Marjorie, and who was the alleged “possessed” Marjorie. I always saw her as “possessed” Marjorie, and I could never trust her. Whenever she was with Merry, the only thing I saw was this creepy looking face with large eyes that had this evil inside them and I just, argh, I feel it creeping down my spine as I write this. I just can’t get her “face” out of my head.

Merry is the main character, and the person we really get to know. In the story she’s eight years old, and she’s a young adult, fifteen years after the alleged “possession”. What I loved about young Merry is that she’s so smart. And all though I sometimes thought, well, would a eight-year-old really think that, I suddenly realized that yes, it’s possible. Kids are so smart and they pick up on things that adults normally don’t, and Merry is one of those really smart and intuitive kids that doesn’t let anything fly by. There are a lot of times she hears things, and she doesn’t really care what they mean, but she at least tries to understand or tries to seem like she understands. And she’s a total goof-ball, she has so many cute quirks and she does so many cute things and I smiled a lot of times while reading from her point of view. It’s just amazing. And when she’s older, we can still see eight-year-old Merry in the things she says and does.

This was the part that kind of made me, thoughtful. I still haven’t decided if the ending was good, or incredibly weird and not okay. I’m not going to spoil it or anything, but when I read that last page I didn’t know what to feel. Was I happy about the ending? Let down? Angry? Where was the ending I wanted? And was the author really hinting to something special?

I really liked the book, but I think I over-hyped it for myself as I was waiting for it. I was so ready for this SUPER SCARY book, and I got a scary book with a little dash of super. I’m tough when it comes to horror, I’ve seen too many horror movies and I’ve read my fair share of horror stories, and I’ve realized that the only way to actually scare me is to make me paranoid, like I was last night when I had to look behind me several times while reading it. If I tip over to become paranoid, I’m starting to see and hear and feel things that aren’t real, and that’s where I wanted to be while reading this whole book, but I wasn’t, and that’s why I’m giving it a four star, because I was not terrified, I was sometimes bored and that kind of, made the whole experience a little more drowned for me.

Page 30, 9% “This book is so easy to read, and a total page-turner already!”
Page 62, 19% “Can’t put it down”
Page 103, 32% “It’s kind of scary :(“
Page 128, 40% “I have to stop or else I’ll have nightmares.. seriously.”
Page 157, 49% “‘I’ll perform the sacramental ritual of exorcism’ it’s happening”
Page 169, 52% “‘But seriously, who watches Norwegian documentaries, right?’ HEEEY”
Page 202, 63% “I need to go to sleep now, it’s 2 AM, and I have work tomorrow.. But this book, it’s been leading up to this! The struggles!!!!”
Page 240, 75% “Was that all?” 
100% “I’d been waiting forever for this book, and then I read it, and I guess I wanted more? Don’t know what to think. I’ll have to sit down tomorrow and think, because it’s 3.30 AM, heh…”

It’s not a super-cool cover, and not that interesting to look at, but it has a lot of the feels that I had when I read the book so It’s really okay.

Favorite quote: “Passage of time as a prop to the story, the story that has been told and retold so often it has lost its meaning, even to those of us who lived through it.”



4 comments on “Book Review: A Head Full of Ghosts

  1. […] A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay We finally got off the train and I could run straight to the bookstore and save the rest of my vacation (you can check out my buys on my July Bookhaul). Then during our wonderful days in Mas Palomas I started and finished this one. It. was. amazing. And yeah, I’m working on this review as well (got some work to do), but read Marley’s review HERE […]


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