Doll Bones
Doll Bones
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Holly Black, illus. by Eliza Wheeler
ISBN 9781416963981
McElderry/S&S, 2013.
5 stars
Keywords: coming-age doll-bones dolls friendship ghost-stories holly-black imagination play

Doll Bones
by Holly Black, illus. by Eliza Wheeler

Holly Black (the Curse Workers series) breaks new ground with this tale of a haunted doll that acts as a catalyst in a friendship among three 12-year-olds.

Zach, Poppy and Alice have been friends since they were small. Zach is the first to show outward signs of maturing. He shoots up physically and feels torn between continuing the role-playing games he enjoys with Poppy and Alice, and the ridicule he'd receive from his basketball teammates if they ever found out. Poppy, as ringleader, often sets the story lines. One doll, the Queen ("a bone china doll of a child with straw-gold curls and paper-white skin"), scares them. When Zach's father throws out the toys he used in their game, Zach cuts off ties with Alice and Poppy rather than tell them the truth--that the game is over. Then the Queen starts talking to Poppy, saying she's a girl whose ashes are trapped inside the doll and who longs to be buried in a cemetery a bus ride away. The three embark on a quest to fulfill the ghost girl's wish, and are forever changed.

This is realistic contemporary fiction for middle graders with Gothic overtones. It's as psychologically haunting as the ghost girl's physical haunting. Holly Black demonstrates how the children growing up also plays into the fears of the adults in their lives. She begins with an ordinary experience of childhood and gives it a wicked twist.

This review first appeared in Shelf Awareness for Readers.
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