Release Date: 5/7/2013
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About the Book: Zach, Poppy, and Alice have been friends for a long time, bonding over a game they play with various action figures and toys and telling stories about pirates, mermaids, and queens in their magical world. One of their characters is The Queen, a mysterious china doll they are told not to touch. One evening, Poppy appears and tells Zach and Alice that she is being haunted by The Queen and that the doll is made from human bone and holding the ash of a murdered girl. It is their quest to return The Queen to where she lived and bury her, or they will be cursed.
GreenBeanTeenQueen Says: It never fails that I have middle grade readers coming into my library on a regular basis looking for scary stories. Doll Bones is going to the top of my list of books I will hand over to those readers. Holly Black manages to create a spooky story about ghosts and dolls while also weaving in the hardships of friendship and growing up.
The main focus of the novel is The Queen-what is her true story, is she really haunting our main characters or is it all just an elaborate game? One of the things Ms. Black exceeds at is leaving the reader wondering as many aspects about The Queen are left open to interpretation. It's up to the reader to decide what was real and what was made up and this adds to the spookiness of the story. I also think this allows readers to choose how scary they want to make the novel-how frightened they are by the plot depends on how much they believe the story. I personally, went into the book thinking it would be scarier than it was, so I think middle graders could easily handle the story. I do wonder though how much of my personal scare factor was because I was listening it to on audiobook instead of reading it. The narrator did a fantastic job, and it was still plenty creepy-I mean we're talking a doll made of human bones here! But because I was familiar with the narrator, I think that might have made it less of a scary story for me.
What I did love was how the plot also weaved in aspects of life that middle graders will relate to. There's the pain of growing up and trying to balance your old interests with your new ones. There's the fear of loosing your friends as you grow apart. And there's that oh-so-awkward moment when you realize that your friend might like you as more than a friend. This part of the plot is never done with sappy moments, but realistic, tough emotions that are talked about and not completely resolved because life is hard and so is growing up. I think readers will appreciate that Zach, Poppy, Alice don't end up with perfect answers to anything-it feels real.
Doll Bones is a delightfully creepy story that is sure to please readers looking for something with a haunting and chilling plotline. Give this one to readers who are looking for a good scary story. Just be warned you may be second guessing any dolls you come across after finishing this book.
Book Pairings: Coraline by Neil Gaiman (for a similar tone)
Full Disclosure: Reviewed from audiobook checked out from my public library