Hollie Overton’s Baby Doll is a psychological thriller exploring the devastation caused by abuse. Lily was kidnapped by her English teacher when she was 16 and held captive in a cabin for eight years. In that time, she was subjected to every kind of abuse imaginable and even gave birth to her abuser’s child. One night, she finally makes a run for it because the door is left unlocked. She and her daughter Sky escape and try to build a life for themselves.

The most heartbreaking thing about Lily’s story is that she’s been held in captivity just five miles away from her house. Mr Hanson, her English teacher and abuser, helped the family search for Lily and remained an upstanding member of the community. When Lily escapes, she wonders if she’ll be able to trust the police. Will they believe her over a respected teacher? What if they’re friends of his and defend him?

She returns home to a family who thought she was dead. Her mother Eve has tried to fill the empty hole by getting into meaningless relationships. Her twin sister Abby battled substance abuse and suicide attempts after Lily went missing. Abby also ended up having a baby with Lily’s first boyfriend Wes. Needless to say, Lily has an awful lot of changes to cope with, and there’s a long way to go before life will be anything close to normal.

Hollie Overton demonstrates what survivors of abuse have to deal with: intrusive medical examinations, the credibility of their stories being dissected by strangers, the possibility of the police not even taking them seriously. Mr Hanson is a typical teacher, well liked by his students and their parents. He expertly hides his double life and his misogynistic views, which just shows how abusers can blend into the background and hoodwink, charm and manipulate people.

This is an unpredictable, fast-paced tale, and despite its horrific content, there are some notes of positivity and hope. The unbreakable bond between Lily and Abby holds the story together, and I would definitely love to see more of them.

★★★

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