Published: April 24, 2018
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17-year-old Julianne Bell’s life is caving in on her. Literally. Her mother is a hoarder and shopping addict whose retail drug of choice is collectible dolls. She also dabbles in lesser fixations like snow globes, commemorative plates, kitchen gadgets, and never-to-be-used exercise equipment. Their house is not a home but more a bizarro game of Garage Sale Tetris in which flea market finds, Amazon boxes, and QVC shipments are puzzled together in a labyrinth of consumer excess and looming bankruptcy. It’s a situation Julianne has grown adept at hiding. That is, until the day her school cafeteria account slips into the red. Meal-skipping is not an option for someone with Type 1 Diabetes, so when Julianne has a seizure in class, her father claims custody. Living with her dad and annoyingly perfect step-mom is not how Julianne planned to spend her summer, let alone her senior year. Needing fast cash to help her mom avoid foreclosure, Julianne takes a job at an amusement park, and as luck would have it, her former classmate—heartthrob Brandon Wright—also works there. Between sweeping up cigarette butts at the park, racing to solve her mom's personal and financial disasters, a medical condition that needs constant monitoring, and a budding romance, Julianne Bell’s messy life just got a whole lot messier.
Set against a summery backdrop of roller coasters, pool parties, and cute boys, DOLL HEARTS explores issues of obsessive-compulsive hoarding, family bonds, and first love.
I have been a fan of Colleen Clayton since I read her debut, What Happens Next, over 2 days in 2012. There was something about her writing style and storytelling ability that fit well with me. Since then I have been dying for something new from her (I mean What Happens Next is on like 65% of my Top Ten Tuesday posts because I love that book so much). Fast forward to March 2018 when I found out my dreams were about to come true, Colleen was self-publishing her sophomore novel Doll Hearts. Well let me tell you something…it was worth the almost 6 year wait! Doll Heart was just a fantastic book with the same charm as WHN and another cute boy to boot.
Doll Hearts is the story of Julianne Bell, a seemingly average high school student with Type 1 Diabetes. She goes out with friends, she has big plans for the summer, and she knows she wants to go to college. What the outside world doesn’t know about Julianne is that her mother is a hoarder. Her house is literally filled to the brim with gizmos and gadgets of plenty…and lots and lots of dolls. Julianne goes above and beyond to hind her mother’s illness from everyone until something happens and her father finds out. Julianne is then forced to live with him and her step-mother and living a life she never wanted.
What I loved about Doll Hearts that the romance (even though it was awesome and had a cute boy) wasn’t what the story was about when you get down to it. Doll Hearts was about Julianne learning how to deal with the risks or her diabetes and her mother’s illness. It was about her learning when to let go and how to let people figure out what they need to do themselves. Her story with her mother was so heartbreaking. Julianne wanted to fix her mother so bad, but really she couldn’t. Her mother had to fix herself and nothing Julianne said or did would change that. That was the main point of the book and I think Colleen pulled that off with flying colors!
Doll Hearts was filled with so much emotion and love. It broke my heart and reminded me about what I loved in Colleen’s debut, What Happens Next. Corey Livingston and Sid still have my heart, but Julianne has carved out a nice sliver for herself. Buy this one people, you won’t be sorry! And now I’ll be back to begging Colleen for a 3rd book. 🙂
In celebration of this day I have been waiting for forever, I have some giveaways for you. First up I am giving away 3 Kindle copies of Doll Hearts and Colleen is giving away a Yankee Candle created with a Doll Hearts cover on it. The giveaway is for US ONLY and will end at 11:59pm on April 26th.
Also as a bonus, if you decide to review Doll Hearts by May 11th, fill out the below form for a chance to win a broad strokes critique on your Work in Progress up to 80k words. All genres are accepted and you will get a 3 to 5 page editorial letter commenting on plot, characterization, pacing, tension, dialogue, setting, etc.. Then marginal notes with sentence-level suggestions. No proofreading! Winner will be randomly selected from all entries and notified on May 14th.
Colleen has an MFA in fiction writing and has taught fiction writing at Kent State and Youngstown State. Her debut novel, What Happens Next was an Ohioana Book Award Finalist (State book award) and earned a Kirkus star.
This is an opportunity you don’t want to miss!
Click on the banner below to fill out the Google form! This is open internationally. You just need to have an email account!