So judging from the title, The Dolls (The Dolls #1), I should’ve known what I was getting into reading Kiki Sullivan’s new series. I loved the cover, which gave me a satanic cult of Stepford Wives-vibe. Sadly that was probably the highlight as whatever potential I expected out of the Southern Gothic-y summary failed to materialize utterly.
Returning to the enclosed Louisiana town of Carrefour for the first time since her mother’s suicide fourteen years before, Eveny Cheval hopes to learn more about her family history. Quickly welcomed into the rich and beautiful clique, The Dolls, by childhood friends Peregrine Marceau and Chloe St. Pierre, she notices a staggering wealth gap among the town’s citizens as well as a slowly rising body count that is covered up by law enforcement. As she learns about her legacy in the ancient practice of Zandara, she also learns that someone is out to kill her…just as they may have killed her mother.
At first, I like Eveny because of her botantical nerdiness and the fact that she’s pretty clueless when she arrives, giving her realistic perspective on the weird goings on, including the decay and poverty in the Periphery as contrasted with the luxuriousness of her school, mansion, and the town center. Still, she doesn’t bat an eye when the first girl she meets dies and the first boy she meets invites her to that girl’s funeral. Instead she adjusts quickly, incredibly making friends on both sides of the financial spectrum, presumably because she is the Chosen One, third cornerstone of the Zandara-wielding voodoo queen triumvirate that rules the town with a golden grasp. Their selfish policies have unsurprisingly made them a lot of enemies and their boneheaded decisions, like opening the protective gate to let in frat bros for a debaucherous party, give their enemies easy access.
Not that more men were needed. There was already an implied love triangle, which as usual irritated me, though I shouldn’t have been surprised since the cover states, “Boys want them.” Ugh. Not that that’s bad, but I would have preferred it to be pre-glamorous magical makeover and lust spells, because DUH everyone’s going to want you after that but do you really want to build such a superficial relationship? I guess point(s) go to Eveny for at least pointing that out to Chloe and Peregrine. Though for someone who’s aunt raised her away from the town to develop a moral compass (in NYC – lol), she sure loses hers pretty quickly and hops on the bandwagon. Weirdly, she also loses her aunt, who basically disappears from the plot shortly after the opening chapters, leaving her with no one to get straight answers from.
Anyway, at the very least, Eveny calls broody Caleb out on his unnecessary hostility so he at least gives her a half-assed answer about how he’s her “protector” (God, free me from such sexist gender roles) and thus can’t love her but he falls in instalove as soon as he lays eyes on her (can you tell I’m dying of instahate?). Her other love interest Drew is explained away at the end as cosying up to her because he’s part of the opposition Main de Lumiere group – keep your friends close and your enemies in your pants? But he has a legit motive (class conflict and oppression) for joining the Main de Lumiere; honestly, I would too with how these girls behave.
I mean, it wasn’t the worst YA fantasy I’ve ever read, but it’s down there. Also I’d caution actual young adults on the younger side about the content that including underage drinking, drugs of a sort, and (occasionally creepy) sexual shenanigans. However, the worst part had to be the negative reinforcement on appearance and affluence, of which there is already far too much in real society for me to want to deal with it in a shittily-written fictional one.