“Escape was just the beginning.
Held captive for eight years, Lily has grown from a teenager to an adult in a small basement prison. Her daughter Sky has been a captive her whole life. But one day their captor leaves the deadbolt unlocked.
This is what happens next… to Lily, to her twin sister, to her mother, to her daughter — and to her captor.”
My Thoughts: The genre of thriller is a tough one. Thrillers, good ones anyway, have just the right balance of mystery and danger. There are sympathetic characters whose imminent danger enhances the suspense. The plot needs to be believable. The setting needs to be just right in order to set the proper tone. To make matters worse, it needs to compete against every single thriller out there. Hollie Overton’s debut novel faces a tremendous challenge in setting itself apart from the other amazing thrillers releasing this summer. Unfortunately, Baby Doll falls just short of meeting that challenge.
For the most part, Ms. Overton does establish many of the credentials necessary to make it a decent thriller. Lily and Sky are extremely sympathetic. She captures Lily’s fears and both of their psychological traumas very well. There is that balance between danger and mystery since Lily’s captor is still out there plotting ways to get either his revenge or return her to captivity. The plot is even mostly believable.
The problem lies in the fact that this story is about more than Lily and Sky and their return to a normal life. It is about more than Lily and Sky and Lily’s twin sister. Were Ms. Overton to stop there and focus on those three, the story would have more power. However, the cast also includes their mother and her issues, old boyfriends, as well as the captor. There is never a chance to get to truly know these characters because the focus flits from one to the other. You do not need insight into all three women in order to understand how traumatizing Lily’s disappearance was for her loved ones left trying to find her, and yet that is what Ms. Overton repeatedly emphasizes. While Lily and Sky are sympathetic, you still do not get to know them very well. There is a superficiality to all of the characters which prevents them from moving beyond a one-dimensional state.
There is also an issue with the easy resolution. For the length of captivity and the type of torture to which Lily was daily subjected, it should take years of therapy. The same holds true for Sky, especially as she is someone who has never seen the light of day or seen another person outside of her parents in her entire life. Yet both are thrust into a situation where they are all living with several other people, above ground, and surrounded by press hounds and cameras. The entire situation feels overly simplistic. While Lily and Sky do seek the help they need, they function a bit too well in society almost immediately, to the point where it is becomes almost ridiculous that they are able to go to a mall and get makeovers a day after getting out of the hospital. The whole scenario does not ring true. This is a fairy tale wrapped up in the guise of a thriller.
Temper your expectations however, and Baby Doll is a decent story. The idea of a mother and daughter escaping their captor is a lovely idea and, in this world where the news is almost always negative, it is almost cathartic. We want the happy ending to happen; it is good for our soul. Yet, it just does not make for the best thriller.