The Dollhouse: A Ghost Story by Charis CotterThe Dollhouse: A Ghost Story by Charis Cotter
Published by Tundra Books on August 31, 2021
Genres: Middle Grade
Pages: 360
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
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A creepy, mysterious dollhouse takes center stage in this atmospheric middle-grade mystery for fans of Doll Bones and Small Spaces.

Alice's world is falling apart. Her parents are getting a divorce, and they've cancelled their yearly cottage trip -- the one thing that gets Alice through the school year. Instead, Alice and her mom are heading to some small town where Alice's mom will be a live-in nurse to a rich elderly lady.

The house is huge, imposing and spooky, and everything inside is meticulously kept and perfect -- not a fun place to spend the summer. Things start to get weird when Alice finds a dollhouse in the attic that's an exact replica of the house she's living in. Then she wakes up to find a girl asleep next to her in her bed -- a girl who looks a lot like one of the dolls from the dollhouse . . .

When the dollhouse starts to change when Alice isn't looking, she knows she has to solve the mystery. Who are the girls in the dollhouse? What happened to them? And what is their connection to the mean and mysterious woman who owns the house?

My 8 year old is really into creepy mysteries, so our librarian has been amazing and keeps hooking us up with excellent books.

*Quick Note: This book deals with divorce and grief, it is pretty heavy for an 8 year old. Luckily my daughter was more interested in the mystery surrounding the dollhouse than the deaths and such.

In this book, which takes place in the late ’90s, Alice’s mom and dad are separating, and her mom takes Alice to Blackwood house where her mom will be a private nurse to an old woman who fell down the stairs and broke her leg. On the way there, Alice imagines a horrific train crash with many deaths and it seems, even her own. The second she comes back to Earth from her daydream, the train she and her mother on hits a downed tree.

From this point on, everything changes. The accident isn’t the same as the crash she envisioned, but she did hit her head. The train starts up again with passengers having only suffered minor injuries. They disembark and make their way to Blackwood House. Through it all, Alice swears that the accident was much worse than it was.

The housekeeper and her daughter Lily greet them and introduce them to Mrs. Bishop, the owner and the woman who fell down the stairs. Lily is kind and sweet and while she’s about 16 or so, she’s very childlike. She is so excited to meet Alice that she shows her to her room and places one of her favorite dolls she’s found in the house on Alice’s bed.

The first night she’s in her new room for the summer, Alice wakes up to someone beside her in the middle of the night. A ghost who looks exactly like the doll Lily placed in her bed! Lily even tells her about the dollhouse. This is an exact replica of Blackwood House, down the furniture and clothes for the dolls. And they all seem to match an old black and white photograph Alice found that looks about 1920s-ish. And in that photograph? the ghost/doll!

Every time Alice falls asleep she is transported into this doll’s world…but it’s the same house. The dollhouse. So many times Alice questions her sanity. It isn’t until closer to the end that she finally realizes what’s been going on and throughout it all…nothing feels real. Or worse, everything feels real. The dollhouse world is real, the real world is real…but neither of them feel fully right. At one point her ghost, a girl named Fizz, tells her it’s because Alice is a ghost, duh. But…Alice is still alive, right? That train accident wasn’t a crash, it was just a minor accident right?

This book is intense, it’s heavy, the mystery is really intriguing. My daughter and I stayed up way too late on school nights reading this, but it was worth it. Although…the ending…I wanted more! It was a good ending for the characters, but I wanted more. An epilogue maybe?

This book is perfect for middle schoolers on up. My third grader really enjoyed it, but I don’t know as I would have had her read it alone. I’m glad we read it together so we could talk about our theories and I could explain a few things to her.

***I got this book from the library