Doll Bones by Holly Black
Zach, Poppy and Alice have played with their action figures for years together, creating elaborate adventures, personalities and histories. At school, they pass notes with questions to one another to round out their world even more. Then Zach’s father throws out his action figures, saying that Zach is too old to play with them any more. Zach is broken-hearted not only at losing the characters he has created but also about losing this connection with his best friends. He is so hurt that he cannot explain to Poppy and Alice what has happened, pushing them away and refusing to play with them at all. Then one night, Zach is awoken by Poppy and Alice who explain that the china doll they have always called The Queen is haunting Poppy’s dreams. The doll wants them to go on a real quest, to avenge a murder. Filled with creepy moments, lots of adventure, and true friendship, this book has remarkable depth.
Black has created a book that says horror on the cover with its creepy doll and certainly has moments in the book that will get you feeling chills. Yet at its core, this is a book about growing up and expectations for what you will need to give up. Black clearly does not agree that to be older, means that you must stop pretending. Rather, she tells a story that shows just how important creativity, open mindedness and wonder are for adolescents too.
Another aspect of the book worthy of note is that this is a story of a quest that is entirely modern, think highways and modern stores, but also the timelessness of a river, sailboat, and library. Part of what makes this book exceptional is the way that it shows how very uncomfortable such a quest would be. Throughout, we get to see the three main characters at their best and their worst, these are true friends who are willing to fight in order to have their way, argue to save friendships, and give up so they won’t have to face the pain of loss.
Friendship, a creepy doll, and adventures, what more could one want in a book! Appropriate for ages 9-12.
Reviewed from copy received from McElderry Books.