Has Tim Burton made any movies lately? Maybe he’s searching for the perfect script, one that cooperates with his flair for things both colorful and dark, one that matches his glee for taking a vanilla setting and sprinkling it with sparkling oddities. Perchance he’s looking for the fairytale that tears into a child’s most bizarre nightmare and extracts its lurid images from the mind to the page. If this is the case, then he needs to look no further than Anya Allyn’s Dollhouse (The Dark Carousel Book 1). In this book there is a huge repository of “all things Burton.” It is the perfect source to mine material for a script of his standards.
Now here’s the kicker – I am pretty neutral when it comes to Tim Burton. I neither love nor hate him. I think the reason for my indifference has to do with the fact that I sometimes have trouble syncing my imagination with the fanciful worlds that he creates. These worlds are too dark for my inner child and yet too childishly bright for my rugged manliness (I can grunt the national anthem!). The fanciful world Allyn creates for Dollhouse resembles the realms of Burton’s creations in so many ways, and yet, while reading the book, I found myself free from the kind of dissonance that his films tend to stir up in me.
Dollhouse is a novel written for “young adults.” Could this explain why I did not notice such dissonance in Allyn’s novel? Young adults = adolescents = moratorium. Teenagers – they are not yet adults, but they are no longer children. This is why fantasy novels partner so well with the YA genre. Both deal with people that inhabit “worlds” outside the realm of normalcy. Adolescence is a period of relentless changes and challenging mysteries. Likewise with fantasy novels. By nature, such stories are intended to invoke a sense of dissonance and perhaps this is why my imagination can absorb the themes in Anya’s novel more easily than the themes of Burton’s films.
Maybe she succeeds at speaking to my inner adolescent whereas Burton doesn’t know with which of my many selves to communicate? Could be. The truth is that I really don’t know. I’m guessing here. All I know is that, for some reason, I find Burton’s films somewhere between fair and good but I view this novel of Allyn’s as excellent.
So what kinds of fanciful creatures inhabit Allyn’s story? Let’s see, there are adult-sized dolls that walk and act on their own accord. There are ghosts, shadows and men and women in masquerade costumes, which seem to be their permanent attire.
The story is as follows. A group of teenagers discover a house in the woods on a fieldtrip for school. Days later, one of their own goes missing. The group searches for their friend and decides to explore the inside of the house. In one of the rooms, they find a carousel and take a ride on it. Its circling path leads to another section of the house. The problem is they can’t go back. They are trapped in “The Dollhouse”, which is run by a strange young girl that keeps children as toys. There is a toy box, where the “bad” toys are placed. This toy box has secret passages. One leads to an outside carnival with a black castle off in the distance. One leads to another time and place. One passage remains a mystery.
Now imagine this as a Burton film. Are you hearing the music box in the soundtrack? Are you seeing the fanciful costumes the “toys” are dressed in? I know I am. If this were made into a film, by Burton or someone else, I might enjoy it but I’m sure I would prefer the book.
Dollhouse is the first book in a series of four. I look forward to reading the remaining books. If fantastic worlds tickle your fancy (hee hee!), then you will enjoy these books as well.