(I got a copy of this book through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.)
A likeable story—on the creepy side, that is, but if I didn’t want creepy, I wouldn’t have applied for this book, right? I liked the atmosphere conveyed through the book, at least when it came to the house itself and its inhabitants (this isn’t a spoiler; the title gives it away, after all). It was oppressive, left little doubt as to the stifling nature of the place, and the toys as well as Jessamine’s behaviour were definitely elements of unease. I was never scared, to be honest, but this doesn’t necessarily means “Dollhouse” won’t be scary to other other people. In any case, in terms of imagery, those were themes I could relate to.
The plot is kind of strange. It’s both a good and a bad thing in my opinion. On the one hand, it fits the overall atmosphere; on the other, sometimes things were a little confusing. At first I thought it may be a purely horror/mystery story, then different supernatural elements creepeed in. I was all right with that, though: it may be part of what the book was meant to achieve, depending on how one considers it, and it also contributed to the characters’ confusion. So, for me, it worked.
I found the pacing somewhat uneven. The first chapter pulled me in, then the next ones were slower, and I think some of the scenes in the dollhouse itself dragged a little. Again, this is one of those double-edged aspects in my opinion: slowing down the story, yet also reflecting the bleak existence of the “dolls”, the day-to-day routine under Jessamine’s guidance (if one can call that guidance…), the world being narrowed down to a few rooms only, with few activities available. So, slow in pacing, but fitting in theme.
I didn’t find the characters really memorable, and was mostly interested in the atmosphere and in looking for hints about the bigger picture, I admit. Cassie was kind of bland, Ethan and Aisha as well, and Lacey was easily forgotten. This is probably one of the weakest points in this book: I kept feeling that those friends didn’t really care about each other. That they went looking for Aisha not in the hopes of finding her alive, but of removing suspicion from Ethan. That they didn’t have much in common, and didn’t look like a strong enough group to go through the hassle of camping in the mountains at night to search for the missing girl. Cassie leaves(show spoiler)
alone in a creepy place, then oh, surprise, she’s missing as well. Rule number one: you never, ever leave someone alone. Not in such a setting.
The romance… Meh. I wasn’t convinced. But then, I seldom am.
The book ends on a cliffhanger that may very well be quite annoying. You can somewhat imagine what will happen, but if it's still rather abrupt, and felt more like a chapter was missing, rather than a real ending.
I’m giving it 3 stars because I really enjoyed the theme, the atmosphere, the imagery it all evoked. I found it easy to picture the rooms, the clothing, to imagine what the dolls’ life was like. If one is looking for strong characters, though, perhaps this isn’t the right book.