Although I didn’t love her first book, Rachel Harrison really impressed me with her next two: Cackle and Such Sharp Teeth. In fact, she’s become one of the best new writers in horror, and is someone I’ll read anything by. Thus, when I saw an opportunity to review her short story collection, Bad Dolls, I jumped at it.
Bad Dolls isn’t a massive collection the likes of which we normally see. Instead, it’s a set of four different stories which explore various themes, like grief, loss, femininity, body image, societal expectations, friendship, family and sisterhood. This isn’t to suggest that men should avoid this book, because I found most of the subject matter interesting despite being of that gender.
The featured stories begin with a tale about a thirty-something woman who finds a strange magic 8 ball at a flea market, which tells her things that she might not be ready to hear. Then, we meet a young lady who returns home to attend a close childhood friend’s expensive bachelorette party in the woods, where more than gifts are being asked for.
The third story, then, centres upon a new dieting app called Goblin, which promises to be more successful and efficient than any others, because it comes with real life effects. In this, the only take to have previously been published elsewhere, we read about a woman who joins with a friend to lose weight before a wedding where a much thought about ex will be.
Lastly, there is the titular Bad Dolls, which is about a twenty-something who moves back home following the suicide of her baby sister. While there she rents a small apartment in the attic of an old Victorian house. However, the cramped living arrangement comes with an unexpected guest: an old doll that may or may not be moving around. This isn’t the weakest of the stories, but it does have the worst ending. There isn’t enough resolution to be found.
Overall, this is a well above average collection of short stories, despite its brevity and existence as a sort of quick read. I’d say that I only spent a couple of hours with it, but was fine with that. I do, however, hope that Rachel Harrison will write more short stories, not just because I like her writing. I’m also a big fan of that type of book. This obviously wasn’t the best I’ve ever read, but was quite good and will be remembered fondly.
If you’re looking for a brief short story collection, or are just in the mood for more horror shorts, I definitely recommend Bad Dolls by Rachel Harrison. All four of its narratives are good or really good, and your time will not be wasted.
This review is based on a copy of the book that we were provided by the publisher. Thank you to them and NetGalley. Receiving an early, unfinished proof, copy did not sway our review or change our opinion.