A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay
My rating: 1 of 5 stars
I'm kind of at a loss as to how to start this review/rant.
For the first half of this book, i was completely blown away by how much i was enjoying it. It takes a lot...A LOT...to freak me out/make me uncomfortable while reading a book, and this book...in the beginning at least, did both those things big time.
Around the 50% mark though, i started to get a weird feeling. A feeling that told me that this book was possibly going to start to go down a path I was not happy with. One that would have left me feeling both annoyed and have me rolling my eyes at the sheer predictability of it all. Well, what i ended up feeling by the end of this book was out and out anger. Angry at the fact that the book showed so, so much promise, only to have it turn into this massive, silly train wreck that made me feel like pounding my kindle into a wall when i turned the last page.
Okay, i might sound a bit melodramatic here, but honestly....there is nothing i love more than a good, scary read. And because i am a huge horror movie fan, and have basically grown up watching any horror movie i come across, i tend to be more cynical when it comes to horror/suspense fiction. I can count on one hand the times i have considered myself to be unsettled by a book...and have yet ever really find myself being scared by one. But, the beginning chapters of Head Full Of Ghosts knocked me on my butt with how well the author set a genuinely creepy tone. There are scenes early on (especially between the 2 sisters) that were so well done, that i nearly had to stop reading because i felt like it was a bit too unnerving to take in all at once.
As i mentioned above, around the half way mark i started to get the idea that the story was going to take a turn i would have been very disappointed in. But, I was still enjoying the overall story so much that i tried to put it out of my head, and just kept going. It's worth mentioning that all of my issues with the book actually started around the time that the family started to film their reality tv show. I thought that might be an interesting aspect to the story, but it just came off as gimmicky....which might or might not have been intentional.
With the exception of one scene, the entire last 25% of the book turned into a completely ridiculous hot mess. It is almost mind boggling to me how much of a complete turn around this book took in my opinion. It's hard to get into the specifics of what happened that drove me crazy without giving away huge plot elements, so....
::MASSIVE SPOILER WARNING::
First off all....I got the impression that it was going to turn out that Marjorie faked being possessed. Which was the first thing that i wasn't happy about, because the book was so much more effective when it seemed like all the supernatural elements were true. Once the idea of her pretending started to creep into the story, it lost a lot of it's punch.
Also, it was VERY obvious that Merry had a lot of emotional and psychological problems. And it wasn't surprising in the least that she ended up being this mysterious blogger who posted her cynical observations on the authenticity of the reality show and the supposed exorcism. Unfortunately, that entire sub-plot of why Merry acts the way she does...why she seems almost childlike in her manner of speaking and the way that she interacts with the woman hired to help write her book....just ends up being one of the many loose ends that the book throws at us.
The actual ending of the book...the last 20-30 pages...is where i have my biggest problems. I'm okay with an author deciding to leave a book open ended, or up to interpretation, but this was just a case of a sloppy, poorly constructed conclusion. In fact it didn't even feel like any kind of conclusion...open ended or not. It felt like the author got to the end of a sentence and said, "You know what? I think that's a good enough place as any to end this." Are we to assume that Merry made up a lot of her story...the parts that didn't air on the reality show at least? That she in fact was the one who poisoned her family and it was just more convenient to let her poor, mentally unstable sister (or father) take the blame for it? Based on the reaction of the writer after she listened to Merry tell her "true" account of the story, i am also wondering if the writer herself wasn't a figment of Merry's imagination as well.
I am truly sick of the "unreliable narrator" trope being used these days. Very rarely, if ever have i come across a story that actually works well when this device is used and i for one hope to never find myself reading something along those lines again.
I hardly ever write reviews that are this negative, and i realize i have an unpopular opinion based on all the glowing reviews this book has received. I wish things had turned out differently. I wish this book had stayed on the course i thought it would...or would have at least found a way to resolve SOMETHING by the end of the book. I feel both cheated and angry that a book that showed such promise ended up being so cliched and so melodramatic .