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? (Goodreads)
A thrilling novel that explores what life is like for a victim after she escapes, Baby Doll by Hollie Overton subverts the norm of the genre as we begin with Lily Riser’s escape from captivity rather than concluding with a heroic liberation.
She has been held captive for the last eight years in the basement of a secluded cabin, being habitually raped and tortured by her captor, Rick Hanson. In that time she has also given birth to his child, the now five-year-old Sky, who Lily would do anything to protect. Sky is her solace in this dark world, along with the memories of her past that she clings to for dear life. She longs most for her twin sister, Abby, with the separation feeling like half of her is missing, especially when they had argued just before Lily was taken.
She has learned to be submissive in her basement prison, with any defiance leading to punishment. Rick wants her to be his perfect ‘Baby doll’, but when Lily gets up and realises that he has forgotten to lock the basement door for the first time, her fight returns. She is wary at first, wondering if it is another trap, but she soon wraps Sky up warm and makes a run for it. Somewhat devastatingly, Lily realises that she was only five miles from home all this time, with the panic starting to set in – what if her family don’t live here anymore and have moved on? Regardless, she finds the strength to push on and lands on her mother’s doorstep, reunited with family at last.
Of course, the novel doesn’t stop there as Lily now needs to learn to adjust to normal life, with so many things having changed in her absence. Abby, for one, has lived her life in a downward spiral of drink and drugs, blaming herself for Lily’s disappearance but remaining adamant that she was still alive. Abby is also pregnant, but reluctant to tell Lily who the father is for fear of stirring up old memories. Nothing is more important to her than having her twin back, and she will fight tooth and nail to protect her, especially when it comes to Rick Hanson being convicted.
I really enjoyed the plot of this book, as it’s unusual to explore a victim trying to readjust to life in such detail. I was worried that some of the tension might be lost once Lily escaped, but the plot manages to keep you hooked with other developments in their lives and the worry that Rick may escape justice for his crimes. His character is very well written, creating the ideal sociopath with no remorse for his actions and a desire to get even with his baby doll. Like all maniacs, he can’t believe she has crossed him and would go to great lengths to reestablish his feeling of control. There are several twists where he is concerned that I hadn’t anticipated, keeping you constantly second guessing his psyche.
To the same extent, Lily is hard to judge as a protagonist as you are never quite sure how much Rick has messed with her mind and what thoughts he has subconsciously planted. She is determined to get her old life back, but at the same time is worried about the ruthless desire with which she pursues it. Her time in captivity has made her incredibly strong willed, but close contact with others is now a struggle and she finds it hard to be with anyone other than Abby or Sky. Even though they’ve been separated her twin still understands her on a level no-one else can, with Lily leaning on Abby and relying on her to be present during the police interviews, even if it means she hears about every horror inflicted on Lily during those years.
Abby was another intriguing character and difficult to read, as she acts on impulse and often doesn’t think things all the way through, meaning she can lash out at any time. She is having her doubts about having the baby, not feeling at all maternal or enjoying the pregnancy experience, and is unsure if she’ll be able to cope once it arrives. Since Lily disappeared she has been living in misery and struggling to see anything positive about life, and Lily’s return has eased her but is not a cure. Abby is fighting mental illness, leaving her with dark thoughts and irrational ideas, with all of her focus on avenging Lily and causing as much damage to Rick as she can. I thought Abby was well developed, as you get to see her protectiveness and understand her survivor’s guilt, whilst at the same time realising that part of her is unhinged and we don’t know what she is capable of.
I really enjoyed this book and the plot twists it offers, as it doesn’t just explore one victim’s experience, as the family also has to readapt and come to terms with all that they have suffered. The tension is maintained throughout, and there is the constant worry that Rick will somehow get away with his crimes and come back to hurt Lily and Sky. The psychological state of each character is well depicted and explored, and I’m intrigued to find out what Hollie Overton will tackle next.
An intriguing thriller about a young girl’s years spent in captivity and the difficulties of readjusting to normal life, this book is different from other thrillers in that the catching the culprit is not the sole aim of the plot. What’s more important is the life of the victim involved, and how what has been done to her has led to her needing to rebuild her life from scratch. The psychological states of those involved are well created and it is easy to understand each character, yet still knowing that any one of them could snap at any time. This gives an edge of unpredictability throughout the book, with a number of twists to keep you hanging on.