Book Review: Baby Doll – Hollie Overton

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‘A dead bolt has a very specific sound. Lily was an expert at recognizing certain sounds–the creak of the floorboards signaling his arrival, the mice scurrying across the concrete in search for food.’

Held captive for eight years, Lily has grown from a teenager to an adult in a small basement prison. Her daughter Sky has been a captive her whole life. But one day their captor leaves the deadbolt unlocked.This is what happens next…to her twin sister, to her mother, to her daughter…and to her captor.

For a debut novel Hollie Overton has struck gold. I bought this after watching someone on Youtube who had been sent an ARC and intended to read it and I’m so glad I picked it up. I didn’t just read this novel, I devoured it. Reminiscient of Emma Donoghue’s Room, Overton has attempted to capture what life is like after being kidnapped and imprisoned. With similarities to real cases in the media such as Jaycee Duguard, who was imprisoned and gave birth to her captors children, the novel focuses on how Lily can face a world that she hasn’t known for almost a decade.  The most interesting part of the novel, however, is how her return impacts her entire family and how they’ve been living their lives.

The writing is fast paced and appears to be well researched, from Lily’s initial escape to her attempts to reconnect with her family, a world that is fascinated by her and her captor. Speaking of whom, this is the first time I’ve read the perspective of a captor, it was both brilliant and chilling. I felt incredibly uncomfortable reading his side of events and thoughts behind what he had done. While it’s easy to dismiss him as ‘insane’, Overton has breached something that people haven’t before and added to Lily’s torment.

The change in family dynamic and how the lives they have been living impact Lily’s return were incredibly interesting. We don’t normally see what happens when these victims have to go back into the real world and how their families have to learn how to live with their loved ones, when they aren’t the same daughter, sister or granddaughter as they were when they left. Lily and her twin sister are strangers to each other, while Lily is a mother to six-year-old Sky, raised in captivity, Abby has scars of a suicide attempt and is pregnant herself. Reading about the sisters lives and their attempts to come together highlighted the difficulties of these kinds of situations. There were twists and turns that made me gasp in shock and while some have argued that Lily copes too well with what happened to her and the outside world, I feel it highlights that everyone is different. That said, I feel that if one of the subplots had been disregarded there would have been more time for Lily’s recovery within the novel.

I gave this novel 4 out of 5 stars. It’s been a long time since I’ve read a good thriller. This was compared to Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train, both of which I thought were terrible, but Baby Doll was a breath of fresh air. The novel dealt with so many different emotions and aspects of this kind of case. While I had mixed feelings about the ending it was different and not something I guessed beforehand (which is such a relief, I’m sick of guessing twists). I’d highly recommend Hollie’s first novel. Is it perfect? No. That said, there are few first novels that are. If you like a good thriller and are looking for something different this is a read for you. Hollie is one to watch.

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