by Holly Black
Published on May 7th, 2013
by Margaret K. McElderry Books
Genres: Action & Adventure, Horror, Middle Grade
Amazon | Goodreads
Also by this author: The Iron Trial, The Iron Trial, The Darkest Side of the Forest
Zach, Poppy and Alice have been friends for ever. They love playing with their action figure toys, imagining a magical world of adventure and heroism. But disaster strikes when, without warning, Zach’s father throws out all his toys, declaring he’s too old for them. Zach is furious, confused and embarrassed, deciding that the only way to cope is to stop playing . . . and stop being friends with Poppy and Alice. But one night the girls pay Zach a visit, and tell him about a series of mysterious occurrences. Poppy swears that she is now being haunted by a china doll – who claims that it is made from the ground-up bones of a murdered girl. They must return the doll to where the girl lived, and bury it. Otherwise the three children will be cursed for eternity . . .
Only the fabulous Holly Black could take such a creepy premise and turn it into something so marvelous!
The story is told in the third point of view, from Zach’s point of view (does that make sense?) As the blurb states, Zach, Poppy and Alice are best friends and neighbors and have been playing very elaborate and imaginative games since they were children. As they turned twelve, they can feel things changing, not only between them, but also at school and at home. In Zach’s case, life at home is also different, because his dad has come back to live with him and his mom again.
Oh, the imagination of a child is a wondrous thing! The intricate games, rules, characters, pictures, that they come up with are a thing of beauty. It is so sad when they lose that, although not all do (artists, authors, and other creative folks seem to be able to keep that.) The inner workings of Zach’s mind were amazing, he found a background story in most places, a character in most people, and a plot in most situations. It was fanciful, creative, and something to cherish. It’s because of that that what his dad did, broke my heart. In his mind, he was helping his son “grow up”, avoid “mockery” and “toughen up.” Instead, poor Zach got so mad, that he decided that he couldn’t play with his friends anymore because his charters were gone. He, very rightfully so, mourn them like real people.
Here starts the creepy part. The doll had has been in Poppy’s house all along and the children were a bit afraid of it and it was deemed the evil queen of all their stories. It was, however, locked in a cabinet as her mom’s prized possession. Poppy stats having dreams about a girl called Eleanor. Eleanor wants Poppy to bury the doll in a particular cemetery. That is, however, practically impossible for three 12-year olds. Here ensues the quest, their last adventure together. It is a big one all right, involving a creepy-ghostly (and invisible) companion, an almost deadly experience, a lot of hungry moments, a lot of trouble, a bit of thievery, and a big discovery.
The writing is Holly Black at her best. It’s strong, good, easy to read and tailored for a younger audience. The plot is creepy for sure, but the way it’s done makes it fantastic and more about the adventure (of the trip and of growing up) than about the “ghost.”
The illustrator, Eliza Wheeler, did a great job with the pictures. Doll Bones is not a graphic book, the illustrations help the reader along with some of the concepts.
Overall, Doll Bones is an amazing, short read that will appeal to children, teenager and adults alike. A creepy premise done so well that you will not even notice!
Quotes for you:
“I hate that everyone calls it growing up, but it seems like DYING.”
“He wondered whether growing up was learning that most stories turned out to be lies.”
“He hadn’t thought about how hot the sun would be either. When he put together his bunch of provisions, he never thought about bringing sunblock. Aragorn never wore sunblock. Taran never wore sunblock. Percy never wore sunblock. But despite all that precedent for going without, he was pretty sure his nose would be lobster-red the next time he looked in the mirror.”