Warnings: Mentions of rape, kidnapping, abortion, alcoholism, PTSD,
Positive Representation: Strong Sibling Bond
Rating: 5/5 stars
Firstly, thank you to Hollie Overton for sending me a copy of Baby Doll to read! It was absolutely fantastic and I can’t wait to read your next book.
Baby Doll follows Lily after she escapes from being held captive in the basement of her rapist for eight years, during which time she had a daughter named Sky. Lily escapes and starts to stumble her way through putting her life back together and everything that entails: reconnecting with her twin sister, raising her daughter, helping capture and convict her tormentor, and moving forward with her life. The book had everything I long to see in books but struggle to find, usually because traditional publishing likes to say people don’t read such things (clearly this book proves them wrong!).
Firstly, I am a sucker for survival stories of any sort. Plane crashes, kidnappings, getting lost in the wilderness, anything. Give me all of it. But my biggest issue with survival stories is that they never go into what happens after the survival is over. The people get rescued or escape or whatever and the book ends. You don’t see them reunited with loved ones, you don’t see them dealing with the aftereffects of what happened, you don’t see how their lives change. I hate that those parts are left out, which is exactly why I loved Baby Doll: it is ONLY the after parts.
The book starts with Lily’s escape instead of ending with it. Instead of wallowing in the horror of what happened the book shows her moving forward. It shows the next level of survival: going back to a world, to people, that have changed in ways you could’ve never imagined. It gives an incredibly realistic look at the struggles all of this entails. Lily frequently hits roadblocks in her recovery, frequently pushes herself in ways she shouldn’t, struggles to fully reconnect with loved ones, and acts out in ways that hurt those around her. And it is all so real. There isn’t a perfect, happy, recovery story where everything goes exactly and unrealistically right. The subtlety of Lily’s recovery, and the recovery of her family as well, is wonderfully done.
Secondly, the book focuses on characters in their early 20s. Why this is a hard thing to find in traditionally published books I have yet to be given a good explanation for. Mostly people seem to say that people my age don’t like reading books with characters our age. Which is bullshit, and it is bullshit that sounds a lot like what they used to say about teenagers not reading books about characters their own age before Harry Potter came out. Now we’ve got the huge and wonderful world of YA. But I digress. Baby Doll has a wonderful portrayal of characters in their early 20s, Lily included. They feel like their ages, not baby-boomers or gen-Xers with a few teenage traits slapped on.
And, of personal importance to me, the book revolves heavily around a sibling relationship. Though I only have one sibling I grew up in a huge family with a ridiculous amount of cousins that may as well have been siblings. But so few books feature those sorts of relationships! Baby Doll revolves heavily around the relationship between Lily and her twin sister Abby, and it is easy to see that Hollie herself is a twin. The twin relationship and connection is there, but it isn’t oversold like it is in most media. They fight, they have different interests, and they hurt one another without meaning to. Being a sibling, twin or otherwise, is not always a perfect, happy relationship. Baby Doll captures that incredibly well.
But one of the things I appreciated the most was that the book makes it very clear that Lily's kidnapper is not mentally ill, nor was he abused as a child. He's just a shitty guy. I loath having a fantastic thriller ruined by the antagonist only being bad because they have a mental illness of some sort or were abused. That is not how mental illness works, nor abuse, and it is an incredibly detrimental and insulting way to portray mental illness and abuse. Not only does Hollie not go this route, it is made explicit clear on page by the kidnapper himself that he isn't doing what he's doing because of mental illness or childhood abuse or anything of that sort. I about cheered when I read it.
Overall, this book was just a fantastic read. It was realistic, descriptive without delving into graphic detail just for the shock factor, and didn’t immediately end after any of the big moments like so many survival books do. There was follow through throughout the book. I can’t recommend it enough!