March 3, 2014
Doll Bones by Holly Black
by Holly Black
Zach gets it. He’s growing up. But he and Alice and Poppy have been friends ever since they were little kids. And that whole time they’ve been telling stories, using a wide variety of action figures and dolls as characters. The scariest character of all is the Queen, a palid china doll locked in a glass cabinet at Poppy’s house. They aren’t allowed to touch the expensive antique, but they still work her into their stories.
Zach knows it looks babyish, like they’re playing with dolls. And he doesn’t want the guys on his middle school basketball team to know anything about it. But he loves the excitement of not only finding out what happens next but sometimes being the one to make it happen. He loves the thrill of being able to break the rules and save the day.
Then he gets home from school and can’t find his backpack full of figures. His father has decided he is too old for them and thrown them away. He didn’t mean it in a bad way. He says he’s just trying to help Zach out, but it doesn’t feel like help.
Hurt and confused, Zach starts avoiding the girls. Then one night they come knocking at his window. They’re carrying the Queen and they’ve come with a story Poppy swears is true. This isn’t just a china doll but a bone china doll and the bone used to make the china strong were those of a girl their own age who was murdered and baked into china. She has been haunting Poppy’s dreams and she isn’t going to stop until they find out what happened and place her in her grave which has been lying empty for over 100 years.
Zack isn’t sure if he believes Poppy but this is their chance. Finally, they can have the kind of adventure they are always telling stories about. This is their chance to save the day if only they can find the nerve to do it.
As popular as this book is, I have to admit that it took me a while to get into it. Why? Because we spend a great deal of time with the Zach, Poppy and Alice in their regular routine before the adventure begins. And, as we all know, the regular routine really isn’t all that exciting. That’s what makes telling their stories so much fun.
But without this foundation, what happens later would be much less creepy and the plight of the little girl from long ago would seem much less plausible except we are able to trace elements of her story through the lives of the three friends. And I had to laugh at how difficult they found certain aspects of a real adventure vs all of the books they had read — Percy Jackson and Legolas don’t need to remember to pack sunscreen.
This is a fun middle grade adventure and the creepy isn’t too terribly creepy. My one concern is that with the china doll on the cover, it will be difficult to get your boys to pick it up. With Zach as the main character, the book will work for them if only you can get them to give it a try. Once the adventure takes off, it drags the reader along for the ride.