As an adorer of horror movies, Halloween, true crime shows, ghost hauntings, and all things generally scary, this week I was on the hunt for a new book to read that would mess me up a little bit. (That’s normal, right? Okay, cool.)
So, I did a Google search of “best possession novels.”
I don’t know about you, but because I grew up Catholic, (and also with a babysitter who thought it would just be hilarious to show me The Exorcist when I was 6 years old,) I will always have a crippling fear of possession. As an adult, outside of my fear of real people, the concept of demonic possession is one of the only things that makes me a little nervous when I go to bed at night.
Because I am listening to books through Audible, my choices were limited. Each list had 15 or so different possession themed books and maybe one or two of them were available on Audible to listen to. (Get it together, Audible!)
I ended up choosing “A Head Full of Ghosts.”
Our main character is Merry, who has a teenage sister that she is very close to, named Marjorie. Something is wrong, however, as Marjorie is starting to act out in frightening, violent, and unpredictable ways.
Her mother believes Marjorie is beginning to suffer from mental illness… but is that actually what’s causing these outbursts? Dad doesn’t really think so.
Strapped for cash and not sure how to deal with Marjorie’s plight, dad invites a camera crew into the home to document Marjorie’s slip into madness as they all prepare for an exorcism.
What could go wrong?
The good, the bad, the evil. My review. (No spoilers)
Lets start with how the book is written, shall we?
The story bounces back and fourth between Merry’s first hand account of the events as an 8 year old child, present day Merry being interviewed as a 23 year old woman, and Merry’s blog entries under her pen name “Karen.”
While this may sound a little messy, it surprisingly wasn’t! Having three different perspectives of the story was helpful to fill in some of the blanks in an interesting way, rather than having things spelled out in a linear fashion.
Luckily for us, the majority of the book is told as an 8 year old kid detailing the breakdown of ghoulish events in real time.
And thank god for that, seriously, because I couldn’t stand the blog entry portions of this book. I found the writing style to be hopelessly annoying and forced, doing it’s best to make sure you know how quick witted, young, cool, and hip the writer was… siiiiggghhh. Please note that there are only 3 short chapters that are written as blog entries, so while they are unbearable, I implore you to hang in there. It does get better.
Fresh plot? Not really…
We all know that the “mental illness vs. demonic possession” story is not new. In fact it’s been done a hundred times, probably.
What makes this story a little more interesting than the average is because of Merry’s 8 year old perspective and the close but tricky relationship between a child and a teenage Marjorie.
For those of you who are reading this, do you have an older sibling? Did you look up to them with those sort of love/hate feelings that most younger siblings have? I do, and I did, so I was able to relate to Merry a whole lot.
Merry loves her sister and looks up to her, so she doesn’t want to believe that Marjorie is capable of bad things. She also can’t completely comprehend her downfall. And when Marjorie tells Merry lies, Merry wants to believe they’re true… because she loves her, she wants to be like her, and she just wants to have her old sister back.
This immature and difficult situation made Merry’s choices, which end up being very crucial to the story and it’s ending, extremely interesting and either frustrating, or relatable, depending on your dynamic within your own family.
So, was it scary?
Yes and no.
There are parts of this book that were chilling, and like a lot of films or books, the build up hosts the best parts. When Marjorie is in the beginning stages of her creepy behavior I had a few moments where I really thought this was going to deliver.
However, the climax, while not exactly predicable, wasn’t as great as I wished it would have been. I dare to say this book actually has 2 climaxes. Both of which were interesting and thought provoking, but scary? I wouldn’t say so.
Even though the most unsettling moments were toward the beginning of the story, and the climax wasn’t as frightening as I hoped, I gave this book 4 out of 5 stars because it thoroughly kept my attention and I was entertained. I was sincerely excited to keep reading the story and I finished the book in 1 day.
The ending had a twist I didn’t see coming and I am still left to ponder, “was Marjorie mentally ill, or possessed?” Any book that keeps me thinking for a while after it’s over is always a good thing, right?
And, I’ll have you know, I have made my decision Marjorie’s condition, but I want you to figure it out for yourself!
My rating: ★★★★✰
Have you read A Head Full of Ghosts? If so, what were your thoughts? I’d love to hear them.
Do you have a favorite scary book to recommend? How about a favorite that is specifically possession themed?
Please let me know!