Saturday, July 5, 2014

Review: Dollhouse by Anya Allyn

Dress-up turns deadly. . .

When Cassie’s best friend, Aisha, disappears during a school hike, Cassie sets off with Aisha’s boyfriend Ethan and their best friend Lacey, determined to find her. But the mist-enshrouded mountains hold many secrets, and what the three teens discover is far more disturbing than any of them imagined: beneath a rundown mansion in the woods lies an underground cavern full of life-size toys and kidnapped girls forced to dress as dolls.

Even as Cassie desperately tries to escape the Dollhouse, she finds herself torn between her forbidden feelings for Ethan, and her intense, instinctive attraction to The Provider, a man Cassie swears she has known before…

Because Cassie’s capture wasn’t accidental, and the Dollhouse is more than just a prison where her deepest fears come true—it’s a portal for the powers of darkness. And Cassie may be the only one who can stop it.
Kindle Edition, 205 pages

Published May 20th 2014 by The Studio, a Paper Lantern Lit imprint
(info grabbed from GoodReads) 

The Dollhouse, a young adult horror set Down Under, begins with Ethan, Cassie's best friend's boyfriend, bursting through her bedroom window in the middle of the night.  This is an awkward dream come true for Cassie, as she has been pining over Ethan for over a year, but he is her best friend's boyfriend.  Her missing best friend's boyfriend.  Ethan has decided to pop in on Cassie to let her know the cops are after him and that he didn't do it even though there may be evidence that indicates otherwise.  He informs her that he is running into the woods to avoid being arrested.  Cassie and her friend Lacey decide to chase after Ethan, the boy who may or may not have murdered Aisha, and help find Aisha (their missing friend).  Cassie has lingering guilt over crushing on Aisha's boyfriend and feels that she is responsible for Aisha running off, which serves as her motivation to run into the forest that three other girls have disappeared without a trace into.  Mayhem ensues.

So, I think I made it clear in my synopsis that these teens don't make the brightest of decisions.  It felt like the author had to dumb her characters down to get them into a horrific situation.  Which isn't anything new, unless you missed the slasher flick bonanza of the 1990's.  I love horror and especially so when it's creepy.  The Dollhouse promises that and so much more in the blurb, but it doesn't really deliver.  It's hard to be horrified when you can't stop thinking about how all of this nonsense could have been prevented.  I mean, really, your friend just disappeared into the woods and you go breaking and entering into a creepy mansion?  That just screams, "Murder me."  Darwin award goes to Cassie.

The biggest problem for me, however, is the writing.  It is what I have decided to call green writing -- it needs to ripen on the vine a bit.  Or be breaded and deep fried.  Anyway, the pacing of the novel was all over the place.  It's fast, it's faster, it's normal; The Dollhouse was like being on a possessed treadmill with all it's stopping and going.  The story starts off in a rush with Ethan busting in through the window and promptly delivering an info dump.  Half the plot and all the build up between characters happens before the novel even begins.  While I appreciate the different approach, it really destroys any chance to get attached to the characters.  Along with the rushed beginning, there is an info dump every couple pages in the first couple chapters to make up for the lost beginning.  Where could have been build up, world building, and character development, we get a rush into a haphazard romp in a creepy house.

The ideas of The Dollhouse really stuck out to me as I love all things messed up and creepy.  I was hoping to be shocked and horrified, but that just didn't really happen.  Reading the Dollhouse is like watching a bad slasher flick in slow motion, but with a lot less blood and entertainment.  I really just wanted to shake the main character until she got some sense and went home, forgetting about her self-rightous journey into the woods to find her friend.

Final Thought: 1 out of 5 toadstools

This review is also posted on GoodReads

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