A Head Full of Ghosts purposely borrows many elements from popular horror movies, embraces it, and creates a unique reading experience. The format of A Head Full of Ghosts is why the book is successful in its style. Merry is telling the story of her childhood to an interviewer that is writing a book about the possession of Merry’s sister, Marjorie, that was televised in a spooky documentary style television show. In the book A Head Full of Ghosts, we get the scenes of Merry talking to the author about her past, we read scenes of the past when Merry was just 8 years old where the majority of the story takes place, and we also read blog posts from a woman named Karen that is a horror aficionado doing an episode by episode reaction to The Possession tv show that is filmed in Merry’s home. It all works because Tremblay refers to all the horror movies and books through the blog posts. If it wasn’t for the blog posts and the interview questions, the book would just be a novelization of most horror movies, but by being more self-aware the book turns into a mockumentary style read that is highly effective.
What I really liked about this book were the blog posts written by Karen. Karen compares and contrasts the television episodes with all the horror books and movies that came before it, comparing scene shots, and going into details about inconsistencies and background information. As much as I loved the scary moments in the actual story by Majorie, it was these side sections in the book that really filled the entire novel out.
The story is up for interpretation at any time and Tremblay wants the reader to look at the story from many different angles including the possibility that Majorie is faking everything. This creates an interesting dynamic where every reader will have a different interpretation of the book and allows rereads to be more enjoyable.
I think that the more familiar you are with the horror genre, the more enjoyment you will get out of this book. There are constant nods to other horror books and movies. In fact, Tremblay even had an “extras” page in the back of the book to point out all the little references. It was fun reading those and realizing just how much this book connects to a book I just read before this, We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson.
If I had to be specific with my score I would give this book around a 3.5-3.75 but I’m rounding it up to a 4. It was a short read that was highly entertaining.
16/25 Possible Score
3 – Plot
3 – Characters
3 – World Building/Setting
4 – Writing Style
3 – Heart & Mind Aspect