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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Doll Bones: A Little Bit Creepy, A Lot Unique and Heartwarming

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Zach, Poppy and Alice are long-time friends who've been playing one continuous game of make believe almost since they met.  Using action figures and dolls, they've created an elaborate world full of pirates, mermaids, warriors and non-stop adventure.  Ruling it all is the Great Queen, represented by a creepy bone-china doll Poppy's mom keeps in a locked cabinet.  

The game has always been great fun for the trio of friends, even if it is kind of a baby thing to do.  Now that he's 12, Zach's embarrassed by his enthusiasm for the game.  He knows he should give it up, but it still makes him angry when his dad throws out all his action figures.  Confused and hurt by Zach's sudden refusal to play the game, the girls fear this may be the end of the threesome's close friendship.  

Then Poppy announces that she's been having dreams about the ghost of the girl whose crushed bones were used to make the Queen.  She says the spirit can't rest until the china doll is laid to rest in her empty grave.  Caught up in the game once more, the threesome heads out for one last adventure together.  But, as one thing after another goes wrong, the kids begin to question the real purpose behind Poppy's insistence on finishing the quest—are her dreams even real?  Or is this a last-ditch effort to get her friends to play the game?  Is Poppy even the one in control?  Or is it her mom's freaky doll who's really running the show?

It's difficult to categorize Doll Bones, Holly Black's Newbery Honor-winning middle grade novel.  To say that it's unique hardly seems sufficient.  It's much more than that.  Considering its author, I figured the book would be scary.  And it is.  A little.  But while Doll Bones has elements of both a horror novel and an adventure tale, it's more of a coming-of-age story than anything else.  The former will be what keeps readers intrigued by the tale, but it's the latter that will make it meaningful.  Anyone who's ever tottered on the edge of childhood and felt a little bit frightened by what comes next can relate to this odd, but ultimately touching story.  

(Readalikes:  I can't think of anything.  Can you?)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for scary images/scenes of peril

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find


  1. Ok, you're totally right. This one sounds creepy. Like way too creepy for a middlegrade book. I'll take your word for it that's it's not too creepy though because, considering who wrote it, I think I'd like to read it.

  2. Creepy and heartwarming kind of sounds like Coraline by Neil Gaiman. This one looks good. Great review.


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