Baby Doll – Hollie Overton

Published by Century

ebook and Hardback – 30 June 2016

Paperback – 12 January 2017

She kept moving forward. She didn’t stop. She didn’t look back.

Lily has been abducted from outside her high-school gates.

For eight long years she’s been locked away from the outside world. During that time she’s changed from a girl into a woman. She’s had a baby.

And now she has seized her chance and escaped.

Running for her life, with her daughter in her arms, she returns to her family and the life she used to know – to her much-loved twin sister Abby, her mum, her high-school boyfriend – and her freedom.

But is it possible to go back?

Lily’s perfect life as a teenager doesn’t exist any more. Since she’s been gone, her family’s lives have changed too, in ways she never could have imagined.

Her return, and the revelation of who took her, will send shockwaves through the whole community.

Impossible not to read in one sitting, Baby Doll is a taut psychological thriller that focuses on family entanglements and the evil that can hide behind a benign facade.

A stand-out debut thriller by a new voice in US crime. Think ROOM meets SISTER. 

When I chose this book from the Amazon Vine list, I imagined it would be a similar story to Room by Emma Donoghue (which I read many years ago). However, apart from the main character Lily Riser having been kept captive for several years and having a child by her abductor (this isn’t a spoiler, you discover this in the first couple of pages) the two books have little in common, with Baby Doll, in my opinion, being a far more dramatic and ‘louder’ story. (This isn’t a criticism of either book in any way – but just to say that the two stories are very different in content).

The blurb tells us that Lily escapes but the story is more about her return to her family and re-adjustment to life after 8 years rather than graphically describing the abuse inflicted on her. She is not the only one who has suffered. Her family have been wondering and hoping and her mother Eve and twin sister Abby have each found their own way over the years of existing with Lily’s disappearance. In one way life has moved on for Lily’s family but in others it hasn’t and when she finally returns, this brings its own struggles. Lily herself is a different person from the one they knew. She was taken when she was a high school teenager and is now a mother with different priorities and not surprisingly her character has changed too. Her daughter Sky is also suffering trauma; she has never known any other life other than captivity and the man she calls ‘Daddy’ and is struggling to adjust. I’m not a parent but I was surprised at how articulate she was for a 6 year old who had only ever known captivity and until her escape had only really had her mother to interact with. It’s a small point but I did feel that Sky’s trauma was passed over too quickly without further mention.

Told in the third person, the story is narrated from the perspectives of Lily, Abby, Eve and at times, the abductor – who appears to be a master manipulator and a control freak. We hear mainly from Lily and Abby as the two sisters try to rebuild their relationship. There are secrets between them and Lily finds that adjusting to her new life is not as easy as she had hoped.

As the story progresses there are twists and more revelations and at one point it took a turn that I wasn’t expecting.

Baby Doll was certainly a chilling and engrossing read with the two sisters having the strongest voices. Although Abby seemed quite an aggressive character, for me she seemed rather more believable than Lily, who I thought at times was a little too forgiving for someone in that situation. Having said that, Lily was a very easy character to engage with and after her escape I was rooting for her and hoping that she would find some kind of normality. A story of re-adjustment and retribution, this is Hollie Overton’s debut thriller and definitely one to be recommended. The author is a twin and has drawn upon her personal experience in creating the story and this certainly shines through.

My paperback copy was received through the Amazon Vine review programme.

About the author:

Hollie Overton is an executive story editor on ABC Family’s upcoming drama Shadowhunters, based on the bestselling Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare. Previously, she wrote for the CBS police procedural Cold Case and Lifetime’s The Client List. Overton’s father was a member of the notorious Overton gang and spent seven years in prison for manslaughter. Raised by a single mother, Hollie, an identical twin herself, draws on her unique childhood experiences to lend realism and compassion to her depictions of domestic violence and dysfunctional family dynamics.

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