Review: Doll Bones
Title: Doll Bones
Author: Holly Black
Published: 7 May 2013
Format: Paperback, Library book
Memorable Quote: ““I thought you needed to be tougher. But I’ve been thinking that protecting somebody by hurting them before someone else gets the chance isn’t the kind of protecting that anybody wants.”
You Might Enjoy: The Body (Stephen King)
Rating: 5/5 stars
Synopsis: Zach, Poppy, and Alice have always been friends. For the majority of their friendship, they have played a constantly evolving game involving pirates, thieves, mermaids, and The Queen. While most of the characters in their game are played with dolls and action figures, The Queen lives in Poppy’s mom’s cabinet – as she is a delicate doll made of bone-china.
But things are becoming complicated now that they are 12 and in middle school. Zach’s dad tries to pull him away from the game, causing him to quit and putting stress on his friendship with the girls. Then, Poppy declares that The Queen was made from the bones of a girl who died in a gruesome way, and that her ghost is haunting her dreams. The only way to stop this is to find the girl’s grave and bury the doll.
With their friendship at stake, the trio go on a quest to put the ghost to rest. But what if Poppy is making it all up to keep them together? What if the ghost is real and is more sinister than she seems? What if they do not complete the quest?
He had read lots of stories where heroes succeeded in spite of long odds, where they accomplished a task that everyone else had failed at. He wondered for the first time about all the people who’d gone before those heroes, about whether they’d been heroic too or whether they’d been at each other’s throats, before everything had gone wrong. He wondered if there was a point where they realized they weren’t going to make it, weren’t going to beat those long odds — that in the legend that would follow, they were going to be the nameless people that failed.
Wow! I tend to hesitate toward middle grade books, but as a librarian, I feel that I need to read books for all ages. Doll Bones, however, did not disappoint in the least. It was definitely a creepy book that was on the edge of scary for the age group it is intended for. Dolls are pretty creepy in general, but the thought of one being haunted is enough to send shivers down anyone’s spine – child or adult.
I also have to admit that I love that this book was somewhat local. Definite Rustbelt feel.
More than creepy doll vibes, this book seriously reminded me of The Body by Stephen King.
Friends at a confusing time in their lives? A dead body? Adventure? The loss of childhood innocence? It’s The Body/Stand By Me for a new generation… but with haunted dolls instead of an actual dead body on the railroad….
Creepy factor aside, what I also enjoyed about Doll Bones was how well the characters were written. These were truly 12 year olds trying to figure out who they were and who they were going to become. 12 is such an awful, difficult age, and it is clearly shown in this book as it seems that Zach and Alice and maturing a sooner than Poppy, which complicates their friendship even further (as if ghosts aren’t enough). Poppy thinks that everyone else is changing and that she’s going to stay the same, and although it is not directly stated, the reader will be able to know that she’s afraid of being left behind and just being a “weird kid”.
I think Doll Bones will hit home for many readers – whether they are going through this confusing time in their youth or they’re an adult, remembering what it felt like to let their childhood go and face the challenge of “growing up”, and how that changed their friendships for better or worse. Black’s writing is spectacular, haunting, and heart-warming. She walks the line of cute/creepy so well!
With themes of imagination, friendship, and growing up, this book is simply fantastic. One thing I especially love is that it is entirely up to the reader to determine what “ghostly occurances” are real. Is this doll actually haunted? Or do our characters have such strong imaginations that they create stories together, even in their dreams?
I think any age will enjoy and appreciate Doll Bones. I highly recommend it!
Have you read Doll Bones? Let me know what you think!