An Engrossing, Imaginative, Singular Tale
(Today I’m turning over ReadLove to my cyber pal and book buddy, Jennifer. She only posts at Goodreads, so I wanted to give her an occasional outlet for her helpful and insightful reviews.)
by Holly Black
Publication Date: May 7, 2013
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Awards: Newbery Honor Book, 2014
Booklist, Kirkus, Publishers Weekly,
School Library Journal, BCCB
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?
Doll Bones is a unique coming of age story, and has one of the most unusual ‘quest’ plots I’ve ever come across. It is consistently interesting and at times eerie, though the emphasis on the supernatural in the blurb and in Jeff Kinney’s back cover endorsement (“a book that will make you sleep with the lights on”) is exaggerated and does the novel an injustice by setting up false expectations.
This should not be classified as a horror, or even as a scary book. Creepy, yes, and you’ll certainly read it with your eyes wide open. But more than anything, Doll Bones is a character study involving three children on the brink of adolescence. The confusion, the fear and sadness, and even the bitterness, of outgrowing yourself — the angst nearly everyone experiences as hormones kick in — is treated honestly and with feeling. (This is true also of the main protagonist’s father who is coping with maturity issues himself.) The uncanny elements serve primarily to drive the plot and add a touch of mystery; they are not the focus of the author’s attention, nor should the reader be distracted by or overly concerned with them. Much more important and intriguing is the way the characters slip in and out of their heroic, make-believe adult roles, as if trying on for size new versions of themselves.
— Jennifer Michelle
4.5 of 5 Hearts. An Engrossing, Imaginative, Singular Tale.
Doll Bones is a thoughtful, perfectly written, nicely illustrated, high-quality children’s book that does its Newbery Honor medal proud. Holly Black at the top of her game. Highly recommended!