Doll Bones

Doll-BonesWritten by Holly Black

Zach, twelve years old, is just starting on the basketball team in middle school and trying to make new friends with his teammates. But he has a secret he doesn’t want the other boys on the team to know about: he still plays a childhood role-playing game with his old friends Alice and Poppy. “The Game” involves dolls, action figures, and elaborate imaginative story lines centering on a creepy porcelain doll they call The Queen, imprisoned behind glass in Poppy’s mother’s china cabinet. After Zach abandons the game, Poppy contacts him late at night and claims that she is in fact being haunted by the ghost of a murdered girl whose bones were made into The Queen. Poppy claims that they must lay the doll to rest in a certain small-town cemetery in Ohio, or the ghost threatens to forever make her life miserable. This may just be Poppy’s most elaborate storyline for the game yet, but Zach and Alice find themselves pulled back into it and embark with Poppy and the ever-present doll on one last but this time very real childhood quest.

This book is at once a creepy ghost story, a tense runaway adventure through the Ohio River Valley, and an emotional exploration of the death of childhood. The characters are very real and readers this age will relate to them as they navigate not only Western Pennsylvania bus lines and the Ohio River, but that awkward liminal state between childhood and adolescence. This is an extremely solid and well-crafted middle grade novel with nothing lacking. It would be nice to see it get a Newbery Honor or some other award attention.

Content Warning Note: This book does include numerous depictions of juvenile crime, including curfew-breaking, boat stealing, and breaking and entering a Carnegie Library after hours.

Review by Joshua Whiting, Granite School District Digital Librarian
Rating: ★★★★½ (4.5 stars)
Interest Level: Grades 5-8

Author Website:

Doll Bones
Written by Holly Black
Margaret K. McElderry Books
256 pages
Release Date: May 7, 2013
ISBN: 9781416963981 (hardcover)

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1 thought on “Doll Bones”

  1. I really liked this book as well. I think it was good to have the main character be a boy since the story is mostly about a doll. I hope the cover will appeal to both boys and girls.

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