Bad Dolls by Rachel Harrison is a haunting collection of four stories that tackle some hard hitting topics with just a pinch of the paranormal mixed in.
Eating disorders, suicide, loss of a sibling, & grief
Let’s dive in!
My Thoughts on Bad Dolls by Rachel Harrison
In this collection, there are Magic 8 balls, bachelorette parties that go sideways, terrible dieting apps, and haunted dolls. There’s also real-life things like obsession, the struggle with changes in relationships, body image struggles, and grief. The mix of the two when combined is extra powerful.
Rachel Harrison has such an amazingly real writing style, drawing readers in and playing on both their sympathy and empathy, without forcing it in the slightest. The stories in this collection, while you can’t relate to the exact situations the characters are in, you’ve likely experienced some of the very real elements that are the backbone of each story.
Below are my notes on each tale.
Reply Hazy, Try Again –
When Jordan finds a Magic 8 ball at a flea market, she immediately feels a connection. That connection soon turns into obsession as she find the answers she is getting are oddly specific to her. Will finding this treasure end up being a good thing?
I loved this story so much! First of all, Magic 8 balls rule. But thinking about one really truly answering your questions is amazing. I absolutely loved the ending.
THIS OPENING SENTENCE: “If I’d been told in advance about the blood sacrifice, I would have made up an excuse not to attend the bachelorette party.”
My goodness this story really shines a light on how out of control bachelorette parties have become, but with a wonderfully dark twist! I am definitely one that can relate to Nat and her feelings about the whole situation.
TW: Eating disorders/dieting
When asked to join in as an accountability partner on her friends mission to lose weight before a wedding, the two download a weight loss app called Goblin. Like many quick-fix weight loss ventures, this one doesn’t go well.
I loved that this story got you into the main characters mind but also made you question what was going on! Was it real or was this character just super hungry?
Bad Dolls –
Returning to her hometown after the sudden death of her sister, this characters struggles with her guilt and her grief. Moving into an apartment that she hopes is temporary, she finds a doll.
This story captures grief so wonderfully. Each character involved handles the death in a different way. The main character has an especially hard time, which comes out as feeling guilty. This line was perfect: “I think you need to stop worrying about how you think you’re supposed to be dealing with it and just deal with it,” she said. “There’s no right or wrong way.”
My Favorite Passages from Bad Dolls
She shook her head and then tilted her gaze up, up toward the high noon sun. She was like a sunflower, always seeking the light.
— Reply Hazy, Try Again
If I’d been told in advance about the blood sacrifice, I would have made up an excuse not to attend the bachelorette party.
We were friends because we had met when we were young, and when you’re young, it doesn’t really matter how different you are. The world isn’t complicated yet, and neither are you.
There were still pictures of Audrey in the hall. Her school portraits with that distinct gloss and cheesy laser background. She wasn’t smiling with her teeth. She never did for photos. There was no way to capture her essence unless she wasn’t paying attention, and even then, if she caught you, she’d force you to delete the evidence.
I liked to remember her best smiling with teeth but there was nothing to help me. I had to rely on memory alone, and that scared me, because memories go. Like everything else, they go.
— Bad Dolls
She turned her head, a hundred eighty degrees, back to me.
— Bad Dolls
My Final Thoughts on Bad Dolls
Horror fans that enjoy both real-world horror and the paranormal will love this collection. While I read this in one day, I highly recommend reading this one over the span of at least four days to allow each story to really sink in.
I just couldn’t stop reading once I picked this one up. Partially due to Rachel’s writing style that just sucks me right in, but also because I found myself personally relating to one element in each of these tales in a very deep way. Some situations made me smile, some were a bit triggering but showed me how far my personal growth has come.
Stories like this make me feel like a stronger person, and I cannot thank Rachel enough for that!
Thanks for reading!
And shout out to Peter Lam CH for allowing use of the doll photo on Unsplash!