Title: DOLL BONES
Author: Holly Black
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
TW/CW: Death/murder (part of the doll story), light mention of blood that alludes to gore, child neglect, mentally ill character being “creepy” to kids.
From Goodreads: Zach, Poppy and Alice have been friends for ever. They love playing with their action figure toys, imagining a magical world of adventure and heroism. But disaster strikes when, without warning, Zach’s father throws out all his toys, declaring he’s too old for them. Zach is furious, confused and embarrassed, deciding that the only way to cope is to stop playing . . . and stop being friends with Poppy and Alice.
But one night the girls pay Zach a visit, and tell him about a series of mysterious occurrences. Poppy swears that she is now being haunted by a china doll – who claims that it is made from the ground-up bones of a murdered girl. They must return the doll to where the girl lived, and bury it. Otherwise the three children will be cursed for eternity . . .
My first thought about this book is that it wasn’t spectacular.
Usually a middle grade involving a ghost will suck me in but this one just didn’t. It’s not that this is a bad story. I enjoyed the adventure and the premise. I enjoyed the characters struggling to cope with growing up and dealing with parent/peer pressure and expectations.
But the characters are flat. All of them are so one dimensional and not fleshed out that I really didn’t care about them. When the ghost doll is more intriguing than the three characters having an adventure, something is wrong. The pacing in the story was also really off. When I read the synopsis, it sounded like the friends drift apart and months later reunite to go on this grand adventure… when actually they didn’t really have a fight and it’s only a day or so later after Zach claims he doesn’t want to play the game anymore when they set out to bury the Queen.
The romance in this is so unnecessary and really kind of threw me out of the story (not that I was ever truly into it…). I wish authors, especially authors who switch between middle grade and young adult, would realize that romance doesn’t need to be included in middle grade. Sometimes it’s done well but this one just wasn’t. Black almost sets this up as a love triangle because there are hints that Poppy likes Zach, too. I would have been much more satisfied with the jealousy aspect if one was afraid the other two were closer in terms of best friends. But romance? No.
Again, it wasn’t terrible. The ghost story is reason enough to read this and I think I would have loved this if more attention had been given to the Queen and her story.