Close Your Pretty Eyes

Publisher: Marion Lloyd Books

Review

Olivia is moving into her sixteenth home. Her previous homes have been cruel, dull, frightening and awkward - but never haunted. Jim’s house has a history steeped in macabre murder and the photograph of infamous baby farmer Amelia Dyer is just the first thing that unsettles her.

When Amelia starts visiting Olivia at night and she’s traumatised by the sounds of crying babies, she reacts to fear in the only way she knows -  lashing out at everyone who tries to help her. But her sixteenth home has started to grow on her: her new brother and sister seem to like her, there are toys in the big garden and a cat to sleep on her bed. She knows it’s going to be hard when Jim eventually kicks her out, as they all do in the end, but the ghost of Amelia Dyer seems determined to ruin things for her – forcing Olivia towards a terrible act that would ensure no one would adopt her ever again.

Close Your Pretty Eyes is a chilling story, both in its supernatural scares and its basis in the all-too-real world of social care and foster homes. Olivia is separated from her real brother and sister from an early age, with little explanation as to why she is unwanted while the others are adopted. She makes up her own mind that is she is evil, but a series of back stories tracking her many temporary homes explains a lot: she’s been terribly abused and bullied, ignored and abandoned. Her stubborn determination to pre-empt heartbreak with callous behaviour is as frustrating for the reader as it is for the people who are trying to love her: Nicholls has depicted some excellent carers, to balance the horror of Olivia's previous bad experiences, and in the end you’re really rooting for Jim’s household to be the one to give her the home she so badly needs. Meanwhile, the spooky story of the (real!) Amelia Dyer is terrifying enough to give readers some restless nights. Altogether, a gripping story that will leave readers with lots of difficult and important issues to mull over, as well as a shiver in the spine.

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