Okay, you’ll have to cut me a little slack because it’s been awhile (read: just over a year) since I read this book, so unfortunately, my review won’t be terribly detailed. It’s a little fitting, though, because this book was practically the definition of vague—I thought I’d been doing a pretty good job of keeping track of the scenery and all that while I was reading, but by the end, I had realized I had absolutely no idea what this dollhouse looked like inside, except for maybe a room or two. The premise was interesting in and of itself, but the novel introduced so many mysterious concepts without answering any questions that it was hard to stay focused. On top of that, there was just awkward dialogue and a love triangle that seemed there to create drama more than develop the characters, so all in all, I wasn’t a huge fan of this book. It ended on a cliffhanger, but I’m not really dying to read the next book.
An ARC of this book was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
What I Liked: Spoilers!
- • There were some truly beautiful lines of prose hidden throughout this novel, and lines of quotable truth. I can tell that, deep down, Allyn is a writer at heart, and some of the images she created in a single sentence or within a few words told me that there’s the soul of a poet in there. For this novel, it got covered up with the story, too much happening at one time, and characters that just weren’t developed or realistic enough for me to care about. But I’m not willing to give up on this author because I can feel there’s something in there, waiting for the exact right idea to come along so it can show off. Dollhouse wasn’t the right story for that, but I would be really interested in seeing something contemporary from Allyn in the future, if that’s something she’s interested in writing.
What I Didn’t Like:
- • The characterization was off for me. Everyone felt a little…forced. Cassie startled me in the beginning with how much more attention she paid to Ethan and her feelings for him that she did to her missing best friend. Ethan, Aisha’s boyfriend, claims to Cassie that he always wanted to be with her, but he just stayed with Aisha because they slept together (once? more than once?). Aisha (the aforementioned missing best friend) betrays both Cassie and Ethan to their Dollhouse tormentor because she’s angry that they kissed when they were looking for her. So much time was spent on building up drama and romance that it was hard to focus on the absolute horror of the Dollhouse itself. In this situation, with several young girls captured and tortured in different ways, you’d think everyone involved would be paying more attention to getting out alive instead of who has a crush on who. The instalove between Cassie and Ethan didn’t help me relate to either of them, and it seemed unrealistic that everyone would be focusing so much on these comparatively insignificant things.
- • The plot felt muddled and confused for most of the story. Every time I got used to a new twist, something else would pop out at me. It wasn’t helped by the fact that so many things in the Dollhouse were almost impossible to picture. The rooms, the secret passages, the terrifying toys that haunted the characters—I couldn’t get a firm grasp on any of it, so by the end of the novel, I was even more confused than when I’d first begun. And I even wonder if maybe Allyn got lost in it all, because the novel ends with the Dollhouse tormentor killing everyone except for Cassie and Ethan, Ethan getting locked out of the Dollhouse, and Cassie crawling backwards/downwards through… some kind of vertical tunnel, and possibly coming out towards the real world on the other side. It felt more like a wiping of the slate than a cliffhanger, which is perhaps why I haven’t felt any pressing need to read the next book right away. I feel like so many of the things introduced in this book, except maybe one or two key points, won’t make it to the rest of the series. There were just a lot of unnecessary details that could have been left out, so more room could be used for narrowing the focus and developing the really good points that were already there.
Overall: The book was okay, although it wasn’t really my cup of tea. I think I would have actually liked it more as a psychological thriller than a ghost story, because then at least the bands of reality could have secured the story in place enough for me to understand any of the major plot points. The focus just kept jumping around, and introduced too many things in the course of one book. I do have hopes for Allyn’s future projects because of several beautiful lines of prose hidden throughout everything else, but I hope that either surfaces more in the books to come in this series, or in something entirely new.