Doll Bones - Holly Black

Genre: Children's/Young Adult
Synopsis: 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 . . .


Review: I'm on a roll with Holly Black books lately. I make no secret of the fact that my introduction to her via Tithe was an underwhelming, and almost entirely off-putting, one. I am so glad I gave more of her books a chance because here is another beautifully original story written with that unique style Holly has which I thoroughly enjoyed, accompanied by stunning illustrations.

My favourite thing about Doll Bones is that, because the story starts with three children who practically live in the worlds of their own creation, you can never be entirely sure (and neither can Zach and Alice) that Poppy is telling the truth about the Queen. Is the Queen genuinely possessed, or is it an elaborate ruse by Poppy to get Zach back into the game? Regardless, this story explores imagination and bravery by these children in their attempt to see this last adventure true.

Black beautifully captures the essence of being a child on the cusp of growing up, and walking that line between the games of childhood and casting them off to step into a more adult reality for the first time.  I wasn't crazy about Alice, I didn't feel she brought much to the story, but Poppy and Zach are both headstrong characters and the dynamic between the three brilliantly encapsulates that newness and uncertainty of transitioning into adulthood, both in themselves and in each other.

There are a couple of elements that I actually found quite creepy in this book, which is typical of Black - her stories are always just that little bit darker than most. I would love to have seen the Queen from the perspective of the passers-by, because their description of her is one of the best things about this book. Not a particularly long read but definitely a worthwhile one.

Rating: 4/5

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