Stars: 5 out of 5.
I didn’t expect to love this book as much as I did. The premise sounded rather quirky, so it could have gone either way for me. I’m so glad that I decided to give it a chance though, because it was blast to read! In some places Broken Dolls reminded me of another excellent book I had read – The Singular & Extraordinary Tale of Mirror & Goliath, which I have reviewed here. It has the same quirky and slightly psychedelic feel to it.
This is the story of Ella, and Ella is a doll, though she knows that she has been human before, she just doesn’t remember what it was like or anything from her past life. All she knows is the dusty attic and the big chest she lives in, the old tape recorder she plays with during her Imagination Time, and the ancient black and white TV she watches sometimes. The only person she ever interacts with is the Professor, who, even though he always tells her that she is special, nevertheless forbids her from leaving the attic and never explains anything.
She doesn’t remember how long she’s been a doll, but her peaceful and boring life changes when the Professor creates Lisa, another living doll. Lisa is a Goth and a rebel and she remember her human life. And she will stop at nothing to get her human body back and make the Professor pay for what he’s done to her.
At first, Ella thinks that Lisa is crazy and is scared of her, but then Ella meets Gabby, the Professor’s granddaughter and everything changes. Gabby is sick and Ella has the sinking feeling that the Professor will try to change her into one of his living dolls. And Ella will do everything in her power to save her new friend. So the good little dancing doll rebels for the first time in her memory.
What I loved about this book was its unpredictability. You start the book with the idea that you have the plot pretty much figured out – crazy evil Professor praying on little girls and turning them into dolls for his crazy evil pleasure. And for the first part of the book, Mrs. Puxty does a good job to cultivate that assumption… until she starts slowly revealing little details that make us doubt what’s going on and wonder if what we are seeing is perhaps not the whole truth. And in the end we discover that all of our assumptions were wrong and the villains are not who we had expected. What can I say? That was brilliant!
Nobody is who they seem to be when we first meet them, apart maybe for Gabby, but she is a 10 year old child, so not really capable of much deception. So it was fun for me to discover different sides to all these characters and to constantly have to revise my opinion of them. And the best part is that the author does those reveals in a very natural way that flows seamlessly with the story.
I also loved Ella, even though I came to hate her by the end. Well, hate is kind of a strong word. Let’s just say that I disliked the person she was when she wasn’t a doll. I won’t go into many more details because that would be a spoiler, so to know more, you need to pick up this book and read it for yourself.
The book is also well written and the story was fast paced and kept me on the edge of my sit. I devoured it in one day because I just couldn’t put it down! It’s also not very long, only about 150 pages, so that helped.
Anyway, I would definitely recommend this book. You want something fast-paced and interesting to read while curled up on your couch with a cup of hot chocolate? Broken Dolls is a book for you.
PS. I have received an advanced reader copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.