“Poppy set down one of the mermaid dolls close to the stretch of asphalt road that represented the Blackest Sea. They were old – bought from Goodwill – with big shiny heads, different coloured tails, and frizzy hair.
Zachary Barlow could almost imagine their fins lashing back and forth as they waited for the boat to get closer, their silly plastic smiles hiding their lethal intentions.”
Poppy, Zachary and Alice have been playing together for years, playing with the dolls their parents have bought them and loving them as if they were real people. But as they get older things are changing, they are changing and when Zach decides he doesn’t want to play on day he thinks he will only have Poppy and Alices anger to contend with. What Zach doesn’t know is that there’s a fourth member of the group who up until now was considered as just one of the characters of their stories. Now though, the Queen seems to be alive and she wants to play.
I have always heard good things about this author but when I didn’t get on with one of her earlier titles I thought I wouldn’t get on with any of them. Thankfully I decided to try out her most recent title for Young Adults; The Coldest Girl in Coldtown and after loving that I knew that my love of 9-12 horror stories would require me to locate a copy of Doll Bones as soon as possible. Now I know I made the right choice – even if it means I may not sleep tonight!
The story is creepy to say the least. It all starts off innocently enough with three kids – al ages 12 – finding that they are growing up and becoming different to what they used to be. Their play times are getting fewer and father between and Poppy isn’t happen about it, especially when Zach says he isn’t playing anymore. To try and entice him back she takes a china doll that has sat locked away in her mothers cabinet for years, out and seems to unleash some sort of haunting. From there things get weird and extra spooky. The ghost stories that come along are enough to make you want to sleep with one eye open and the kids adventure makes for a brilliant story for any non-believers.
There wasn’t much to the characters of the book and I felt that it was a little disappointing from the point of view. They are all coming up to a time when they start ‘growing up’ and finding out who they are. Zach has his basketball and the thing with his parents and Alice has the thing with her grandmother and her acting and other friends. Poppy didn’t seem to have much at all apart from little money and mean brothers but I think she was the youngest out of the group and trying to hold on to her childhood for longer. She did have fantastic story telling abilities though!
The writing set the scene well and apart from some sort of math lesson going on in the middle of the kids’ adventure I really enjoyed it. I liked the pace of the story and especially liked the story scenes at the begging and the dreams towards the middle. When things were unravelling towards the end they started picking up pace brilliantly and I had to stop myself from rushing to the finish.
All in all Doll Bones was a great read and would really suit a middle grader of about 12 who loves spooky stuff. I would have adored it at that age but it was a little lacking for me in characterisation in places. I am thinking my next Holly Black book may just have to be some of the Spiderwick Chronicles as I am started to see her appeal a lot now.
Doll Bones was published on February 27th by Corgi Children’s Books, a Random House imprint. My copy was sent in exchange for an honest review
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