BAD DOLLS by Rachel Harrison (The Return, Cackle, Such Sharp Teeth)
Release Date: December 6th, 2022 from Berkley
Genre: Adult Horror Fiction, Short Stories, Audio/eBook Only, Thriller, Female-Centered
Themes/Sub-Genres: Female friendships, queer relationships, supernatural, bachelorette party, jealousy, ritualistic sacrifice, disordered eating, diets, grief, siblings, family, death, hinted suicide, creepy dolls, trauma, therapy
What You Need to Know: This is a short story collection from author Rachel Harrison only available in eBook or Audiobook. There are 4 stories.
My Reading Experience:
These stories were all exceptional. Harrison's storytelling is especially intimate and compelling in the short form. I knew this to be the case having read three of her novels but this was my first time reading any of her short stories and I could not believe how fast the up front investment takes place.
I'm immediately drawn in by the female leads of each story.
I highlighted so many lines. I can share some that aren't spoilery.
Reply Hazy, Try Again
"I typically felt immediate guilt after any impulse purchase, even something as small as gum at the register."
an indecisive young woman finds a mysterious Magic 8 Ball that might just have the answers she’s been looking for...or might lead her down a path of self-destruction.
The narrator in this story is indecisive, something I don't typically relate to but I did 100% relate to her anxieties and the way she over-analyzed situations. Finding the Magic 8 Ball allows the MC to rely on an external force to help guide her into making decisions and not get so lost in her own head. Except, what if the Magic 8 Ball is trainwrecking your life? And maybe that's a good thing?
“Why do we, as a society, reward people for getting married?”
a bridesmaid attends her childhood best friend’s bachelorette weekend, only to discover the itinerary may demand more than she’s willing to sacrifice.
Oh my goodness, I saw myself in Nat. At this party with all these women and complicated friendships with uncomfortable dynamics. I loved it.
" It’s absolutely insufferable when someone tells you you’re being quiet when actually you’re being ignored."
"It didn’t seem profound anymore. It didn’t make me feel good. It felt like a prison sentence."
an unusually brutal dieting app wreaks havoc on the life of an insecure woman preparing to attend her ex’s wedding.
This story. The horrible, awful, painful struggle of body image, emotional strongholds with food, disordered eating, fad diets, you name it--it's in here. So relatable and this fucking app with a goddamn actual goblin that fat shames and attacks you like your own guilt and shame in your head?? Fucking brilliant.
"There was plenty of blame to go around. It drifted through the house, moving room to room, a faceless ghost."
This one deals with grief and loss and family dynamics and a haunting...even a medium named Sadie! Yay! What a treat. I liked everything about how this story feels while I was reading it. Impending doom, self sabotage, the hurt, the anger, the confused feelings and then this scary doll just showing up and being creepy as fuck through it all...so, so incredibly good.
My final recommendation: If you're looking for horror centered around the female experience, enjoy being in a narrator's head that you can relate to, and love authentic dialog and characters that feel real...even laugh-out-loud funny sometimes, this is your jam. Perfect for fans who haven't jumped on the Rachel Harrison bandwagon yet and just want a sample of how she writes.
Comps: Similar voice/storytelling as T. Kingfisher, Caroline Kepnes, Kelly Link, Meg Elison, Sarah Gailey, Sarah Langan, Megan Abbott, and Sara Gran