⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ I’d give this book five stars for incredible writing, characterization, and plot. It’s a slow-burn suspense, and the first half of the book is more fun and lighthearted as Dolly pretends the bad stuff never happened.
🖋 🖋🖋🖋🖋 This book is a unique read. It takes a very skilled writer immersed in the voice of the characters to pull off what Sacks pulled off in this novel—telling the story from start to finish from the perspective of a seven-year-old. This is a suspense novel for those who love soap operas—more family drama than suspense, but with all the fixings of a good kidnapping novel.
Published June 4th, 2019 by Little, Brown and Company
Genre: Mystery, Suspense, Family Drama, Road Trip Novels
🔪 This book gets one knife for violence. Altogether, this is a fairly clean read. All violence is off screen and intentionally ignored by the narrator for most of the book. That said, if you’re sensitive to mentions of domestic abuse, be careful reading this book.
🚩 🚩 🚩 This book is a family drama fraught with memories of domestic violence and the conflicting feelings of a daughter toward her abusive father. It’s a picture of how abusive situations can slip through the cracks until it’s too late, and a depiction of how many kids learn to cope with trauma.
Dolly Rust likes dancing and playing pretend games with her best friend, Clemesta, a toy horse. (But if you asked Clemesta, you’d learn she was actually a magical horse queen, and also Dolly’s twin sister.) Clemesta and Dolly were in the middle of saving a stuffed lion’s life when her dad came and said it was time to go.
At first, they’re going on the best daddy-daughter adventure ever, and everything is amazing because Dolly has all of her dad’s attention and it’s a special trip just for them.
But the farther they drive, the less fun this special adventure becomes, and the more Clemesta insists that Dolly needs to remember the things she’s hidden away in the Secret Secret box of her brain.
Eventually, her dad starts acting strange, always checking behind them in the mirror and asking Dolly to wear a hat, cutting her hair and wearing glasses that he doesn’t need.
Will Dolly be able to ask for help before it’s too late and they’re too far lost?
This is an incredibly unique read. It takes a highly skilled writer to maintain an accurate voice of a seven-year-old narrator from start to finish, and to make a road trip where most of the time is spent in the back seat of a car with a toy horse interesting to read.
The suspense begins to ramp up about halfway through the book, and it doesn’t slow down after that. But even with a less suspenseful start, the plot’s mystery and the dramatic irony was enough to pull me through until I couldn’t put it down.
Dolly is an incredibly lovable character, in large part because of how she represents childhood. She has word slips and sporadic trains of thoughts and snippets of memory that reveal the drama of her home life bit by bit all the way up until the end. Some may feel this makes the story disjointed, but the longer I read in Dolly’s voice the more I got used to her thought patterns and was able to anticipate the narrative flow, which made it easier and easier to read as the book went along.
Reviewed by J. J. Hanna
J. J. Hanna is a writer from Littleton, CO. She has a B. S. from Taylor University in Professional Writing, and has worked in various roles in the publishing industry including literary agent, freelance writer, virtual assistant, and publicist. Her favorite genre is suspense, but she also enjoys Fantasy and SciFi. Connect with her online @authorjjhanna and http://www.authorjjhanna.com.