A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay

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4/5 Stars

This book was awesome! Possession is one sub-genre of horror that has definitely been overdone, so going into this I wasn’t expecting anything new, but I was pleasantly surprised.

Much like The Exorcism of Emily Rose, A Head Full of Ghosts is about a teenage girl named Marjorie who begins exhibiting behaviors that could be demonic possession or could be a psychotic break; depends who you ask. Marjorie’s parents, desperate to help their daughter, turn to a local priest for help. The family is struggling financially, so when the priest suggests that they bring in a production company to document the process and turn it into a reality TV show, the family reluctantly agrees.

Flash forward to 15 years later: Marjorie’s little sister, Merry – now in her early 20s – is being interviewed by a best-selling author writing an account of the family’s story. We soon come to find that not everything happened the way it appeared, and that Merry has some secrets of her own.

One of the things that makes this book so good is that it’s very meta. Not only is this amusing for horror buffs, but it makes the book feel reactionary rather than derivative.

Interspersed with Merry’s recollections of what happened are blog entries from an edgy horror blogger who’s re-watching the reality series. Her blog posts reference all the major books and movies about possession (from The Exorcist to Paranormal Activity) and provide analysis of demonic possession, exorcism and their place in a patriarchal society.

While it’s not over-the-top terrifying, this is a smart, sad, creepy, fascinating psychological thriller that keeps you hooked until the end while delivering sharp commentary on reality TV culture, the myth of the traditional American family, misogyny and the fallibility of memory.

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