✰✰✰✰ Poppy, Zach, and Alice have been friends since they were just little kids. Together they have always played elaborate fantasy games with the girls using their favorite dolls and Zach using action figures. However, now that the trio is in middle school, things are changing rapidly. Zach is involved in sports, and Alice has theatre leaving little time for fantasy play. As they try to finish one last game with their toys before they grow up, Zach suddenly stops playing. He won’t even give the girls a reason.
In a last ditch effort to finish the game and get Zach to play, Poppy kidnaps a doll called the Queen. The Queen is an antique china doll that is integral to all their stories. She sits in a locked glass cabinet and is strictly off limits. However, as soon as she is released, the Queen appears in one of Poppy’s dreams as a ghost girl. It seems that the doll is made from the bones of a real little girl who died a tragic death. According to Poppy, the ghost wants her bones to be buried properly. If Poppy doesn't help her, the Queen promises to make her sorry. While Alice and Zach aren’t entirely convinced of the ghost story, they agree to help Poppy. Sneaking away during the night, they set off to discover the ghost’s true story and find her grave. With clues to guide their journey, they find themselves on a real quest instead of a fantasy. The friends discover that they must work together as a team to overcome several obstacles and see the quest through to the end to give the Queen the eternal rest she yearns for.
The Bottom Line: After a slow start, Doll Bones turned into a real page-turner; it’s a tale of adventure, friendship, and growing up. The story is filled with middle school tension as the characters face the uneasy transition from childhood to adolescence. The friends argue with and challenge each other, as they try to work together to complete the task. As with all quests, the participants change along the way. The characters learn that they don’t need to fear growing up, and even when things look bleak, they still have their friendship.
I have never been a fan of antique china dolls, and Black’s story justifies this dislike. These dolls are just plain creepy, and the Queen in this story is eerie and a bit sinister. This is a quick read that ends rather abruptly. Nonetheless, it’s a spooky tale that middle grade readers will enjoy.
Details: Doll Bones by Holly Black. Hardcover published by Margaret K. McElderry Books in 2013. 256 p. ISBN: 978-1-4169-6398-1