Doll Bones by Holly Black
Published: May 7th 2013 by Listening Library (Audio)
Format/Source: Audio CD borrowed from Cover2Cover Blog
Genre: Middle Grade Paranormal Adventure
Zach, Poppy, and Alice have been friends forever. And for almost as long, they’ve been playing one continuous, ever-changing game of pirates and thieves, mermaids and warriors. Ruling over all is the Great Queen, a bone-china doll cursing those who displease her. But they are in middle school now. Zach’s father pushes him to give up make-believe, and Zach quits the game. Their friendship might be over, until Poppy declares she’s been having dreams about the Queen—and the ghost of a girl who will not rest until the bone-china doll is buried in her empty grave.
Zach and Alice and Poppy set off on one last adventure to lay the Queen’s ghost to rest. But nothing goes according to plan, and as their adventure turns into an epic journey, creepy things begin to happen. Is the doll just a doll or something more sinister? And if there really is a ghost, will it let them go now that it has them in its clutches?
I played a ton of imaginary games as a kid.
I wasn’t so big into dolls, but if there was an idea, my friend Karen and I would act it out. Star Wars fan fiction games: did it. Spy games against the boys: accomplished. Live action Mario Kart with bicycles: amazing. (I guess there were early indications that I would maintain my nerdiness.)
We played these games from first grade until seventh grade. Then something shifted. I went over to her house and we tried to play a new game. But I was just not into it anymore. I can’t even put my finger on what, but something had switched for me. Perhaps the warning signs had been there, that our friendship had started to drift in the past year. I ended up ending the game, and walking out and home alone. I remember that walk quite vividly because it was on it that I came to the realization that the imaginary games of my childhood were over and perhaps my friendship with Karen was too. As it turned out, I was right on both accounts.
Doll Bones addresses that moment, typically in middle school, when you realize that perhaps you’re no longer a kid. It’s a strange awareness of growing up but not being able to help it. Zach wants to continue playing with Poppy and Alice, telling their stories, but his dad prematurely ends his ability to play by throwing away his action figures. The trio embarks on an adventure about a possibly haunted doll, the Queen, who could possibly have been made from the body parts of a dead Victorian girl.
I love that the main character of a story about childhood games and growing up was a boy. It was so refreshing and it really breathed new excitement into the story for me. The kids’ adventure was so much fun because it was not overtly strange and otherworldly. It’s an adventure that I could see myself going on, with wishes that it would be as exciting as I could imagine it, with pirates and strange magical happenings. And while those wishes usually remain unfulfilled, there is still an adventure to be had. I also really enjoyed how it was never confirmed without a doubt that the doll was haunted. It remains a mystery.
My only criticism is just with the format. The audio book was absolutely entertaining, but it means you lose out on the illustrations. I actually had no idea previously that there were illustrations until I was writing my review.
I am very rarely ever disappointed with Holly Black’s stories. There is a certain magic that is in all her writing that really ensnares me into the story. Doll Bones was no different, leaving its mark of memories and a desire for the next chapter in life.
My rating: 5/5