Monday, November 2, 2015

A HEAD FULL OF GHOSTS by Paul Tremblay

*Note: I discuss a theory that could be seen as a SPOILER in the final paragraph of this review* 


I was pretty surprised by how forgettable this one was. It's one of the more popular horror novels this year, and the premise (about a young girl named Merry witnessing her family dealing with the possible demonic possession of their daughter and their choice to not only perform an exorcism but to film it for a reality show) is a set up for some chilling entertainment. But I was uninterested through most of this book. 

Much of it has to do with the terribly inconsistent pacing and lack of narrative urgency. When I looked at the bottom of my Kindle and realized that I was coming up on the 50% mark and wasn't really excited about continuing, I knew I was in for trouble. Some of the problems with the pacing comes from the book's structure and framing device, where we glean the story by switching back and forth from an adult Merry dictating the story of what happened to her family to an author named Rachel doing research for a true crime novel, which leads to the POV of an 8-year-old Merry during the traumatizing events. But there's also the POV of an annoying blogger dissecting the infamous reality show that documented the events. The blogger sections specifically prove to be mostly unnecessary. I mean, yea I get it, with these sections we get an idea of what the world knows about the events through the show and the fact that they differ from what might have actually happened but...*yawn*...the same thing could've been done (and to an extent was being done) in the Merry/Rachel sequences much more efficiently and with less pages of pop culture references, less shout-outs to horror and crime icons, and less words in all caps. And as much as I understand choosing to use the little girl POV for the bulk of the novel, it ultimately became a chore, and all the time spent on setting up the 8-year-old-girl-world took away from the real reason that I picked the book up in the first place. For example, what was up with Merry refusing to speak and using notes to talk? Ultimately it didn't really amount to anything other than ruining the pacing in what should've been a really engaging, pivotal chapter.

The dialogue also took away a bit and didn't feel genuine, coming across as overly formal and stilted, especially in the conversations between Merry and the writer Rachel. The theory that most reviewers seem to have by the end (that Merry has been the one that was possessed all along, and continues to be) is much more than a theory to me and is pretty blatantly spelled out for us in the final scene: with the "brrr, it's cold in here" lines popping up every paragraph. This reveal actually makes the book slightly more interesting, but comes too little and too late to redeem the rest of what could've been a nifty little piece.


1 comment:

  1. Hi Richard -
    I don't know if you participate in these things but I've "tagged" you for A "TBR Book Tag!" Here's the link:
    Happy reading!


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