Title: The Dollhouse
Author: Nicole Thorn
Genre: Young Adult
Publisher: Curiosity Quills (19 Sep 2016)
Blurb: Riley Cain. Layla Hall. Adalyn Mitchell. Kylie Michaelson. Those are the four girls kidnapped from their hometown over seven years ago, and they’ve finally broken free of their prison. Suddenly, they find themselves thrown back into society. Now nineteen, the girls have to try and acclimate to how their families have changed, as well as the world around them. Nothing is as it was. Riley soon meets Wilson, a broken boy living next door and trying as hard as he can to take care of his family. He seems to be the only one who treats Riley like she’s more than a china doll, fated to shatter at any moment. The two grow closer, helping to soothe each other’s pain. Riley just wants to feel human again, and she’s willing to do anything to get there. The only problem is that Wilson doesn’t want to go too far. He’s torn between protecting Riley, and letting her find her own way. He wants to be the good guy, but he also wants to be the guy who gets the girl he loves. Wilson is stuck fighting what he and Riley both want, and he’s sure it’s for all the right reasons. Everyone thinks they know what Riley needs, but to her, it all just looks like another cage.
Goodreads Rating: 3.58/5 stars
“You can never really fix what’s broken.”
The Dollhouse is the second book I’ve read that revolves around the issue of kidnapping. The first book was Room by Emma Donoghue which mostly tells the story of a mum and her son’s lives while they’re being held prisoner in a shed. The Dollhouse is different in the sense that it tells the story of how four girls try to fit back into their old lives after escaping from their prison. To be frank, I went into this book expecting it to be a lighter read as compared to Room, since it wasn’t focused on the gory details of the girls’ sufferings while they’re being kept as prisoners. Well, it wasn’t long before I realized that I was oh, so, wrong.
“We’re heavy hearts, and anyone willing to carry us, even for a little while, should get a fucking gold medal.”
This book reminded me that just because something is over and done with, doesn’t mean that the memories and experiences that come with it fade away as well. Not only do the girls have to deal with fitting back into society without the experience of ‘being normal’, they have to deal with PTSD as well as their newfound ‘fame’ and the attention of the media. And here we’re reminded of how vile and fake the media can be, just to get the ratings they need.
“I could lie and pretend to be happy, and they would never see through the shattering glass I wore as skin.”
We’re brought along the journey as the girls try to power through while juggling all the added stresses at the same time. Riley, who is the main character, felt like she was caged in once more, as her parents have been trying hard to do what they think is for her own good but is actually detrimental to her mental wellbeing. Her other friends each have their own issues to work through as well, but I don’t want to talk too much about those, I don’t want to spoil anything for those who have yet to read it.
“They would want to pump me with chemicals to try and fix what was broken. I spent the last seven years being forced into a box, made to be what someone wanted me to be. I didn’t want that again. My cage was bigger now, but I still felt bars around me.”
The details of what went on in their ‘prison’ was gradually exposed to the readers in different ways throughout the story, which was interesting, but also heart-breaking. Reading about their grooming procedures and the punishment they had to endure elicited rage and sadness in me, and my heart broke into a million pieces every time Riley showed signs of PTSD.
“It doesn’t matter how many years someone tries to perfect you, all you become is some flawed, broken mess of a thing. Barely human anymore.”
One thing I like about this book is the realness of it. Every emotion, every detail of their lives post-kidnap, is so raw, and fucked up, and real. Their anxiety attacks, their depression, their reaction to their ‘fame’. Even their new discoveries in life. Especially the part where Riley has just discovered masturbation and she went to Wilson (her love interest) to help her get the hang of it. I’ve been watching a lot of sex-positive YouTubers and I liked that Thorn did not shy away from such an important part of our daily lives in her book, because sexual pleasure is an actual thing that humans crave. This whole scene where Riley figures out what masturbation is, what sexual pleasure feels like, just makes the whole story even more realistic because that is exactly what we discover in life.
“Let me tell you a secret. No one has a damn clue what they’re doing. Not ever. They can pretend, but life is nothing more than a guessing game. Sometimes you guess right, and you move ahead on the board. Sometimes you guess wrong and fall flat on your face. You have to fall down if you want to learn how to pick yourself up again.”
This book has also made me re-evaluate my whole viewpoint on suicide. I’m not going to lie; I’ve thought about suicide before. I mean, we all go there once or twice, right? But the thing that stopped me was my fear of pain. Not leaving behind people who love me, but because I was scared of pain, which was pretty cowardly of me, I have to admit. But this book talked about suicide, death and the responsibility we have towards the people we leave behind, and that has changed my way of thinking completely.
“It’s easy to want to be alive, but it’s very hard to put it into action.”
Oh, and can we talk about the romance??? It’s different from most YA romance, because here’s a guy, Wilson, with his own set of problems, who falls for a broken girl. And he has to control his own desires because he doesn’t want to take advantage of Riley. Brock Turner could learn a thing or two from Wilson, TBH. But then Riley is persistent on moving on to the next stage. So Wilson is stuck between moving forward and giving Riley some time to think about what she really wants. He doesn’t want to be the guy she jumps just because he’s the first available option, you know? The romance in this book is made more complex and interesting because of this conflict.
“Maybe we’re both broken.”
“Maybe everyone is broken.”
All in all, this was a well-written story, plot progressed smoothly, except for the ending, which I felt was kind of rushed. The conflict was resolved too simply. I remember thinking, that’s it? But other than that, great book. The characters were real, emotions were raw. The romance was complicated. It was a great read.
I was sent an ARC from Curiosity Quills in exchange for a review. Special thanks to Curiosity Quills and Nicole Thorn. This is my honest review.