Doll Bones by Holly Black

15944406Light horror and lessons about growing up.

Recommended grade level: 4-7

Pages:  256 (for ISBN 9781416963981)

Genre(s) and keywords: horror, award winner

Tone/Style: eerie

Pace: moderate

Topics: ghosts, dolls, journeys

Themes: growing up, embarrassment, friendship, change

Summary: Zach, Poppy, and Alice have been friends forever. And for almost as long, they’ve been playing one continuous, ever-changing game of pirates and thieves, mermaids and warriors. Ruling over all is the Great Queen, a bone-china doll cursing those who displease her.

But they are in middle school now. Zach’s father pushes him to give up make-believe, and Zach quits the game. Their friendship might be over, until Poppy declares she’s been having dreams about the Queen—and the ghost of a girl who will not rest until the bone-china doll is buried in her empty grave.

Zach and Alice and Poppy set off on one last adventure to lay the Queen’s ghost to rest. But nothing goes according to plan, and as their adventure turns into an epic journey, creepy things begin to happen. Is the doll just a doll or something more sinister? And if there really is a ghost, will it let them go now that it has them in its clutches? (Source)

Who will like this book?: This book tackles that confusing time of transition from childhood to young adulthood, when friendships change and kids are torn between the old and familiar, and the new and unknown. It’s something almost all readers should be able to relate to. Throwing a creepy doll in there just makes it more fun.

Who won’t like this book?: It’s creepy but not truly scary, so those looking for terror may be disappointed.

Other comments: none

Sequel(s): n/a

Readalikes: Mary Downing Hahn is always my go-to recommendation for fans of middle grade horror; her books tend to be scarier than Doll Bones. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman shares its atmospheric creepiness and focus on character development. The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier and The Riverman by Aaron Starmer are some other options.

Kylie Peters

Image credit: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/15944406-doll-bones

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