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?
“I hate that you can do what you’re supposed to do and I can’t. I hate that you’re going to leave me behind. I hate that everyone calls it growing up, but it seems like dying. It feels like each one of you is being possessed and I’m next.”
I brought this book with me on vacation and finished it on the plane to Vancouver. I got caught up in the story of friendship and adventure with a touch of spookiness and HAD to finish it before we landed so I could know how it ended.
I was able to connect and sympathize with each of the characters despite the age difference, through I related to Poppy the most. She doesn’t want to grow up and deal with the hardships of the adult world and lose control of her life and the game. The characters were all twelve which in my opinion is the best age to be – old enough to be treated like an adult but young enough to still lose yourself in imagination – and the novel portrayed this balance perfectly. Half of the story focuses on the kids dealing with the real world problems of growing up and the rest deals with adventure and make believe.
The creepy factor is perfectly done. None of the proof about the ghost was concrete so you if you’re a skeptic you can blame it on over active imagination – but that’s a lot less fun. Who tore up the campsite at night? What about the dreams about a girl from the past? Or the ‘extra’ girl hanging around with them? It somehow makes it creepier when you still have doubts because its more of a mystery.
Zach, Poppy and Alice go out for a middle of the night adventure that began long before the whole quest to bury the doll surfaced. The adventure was part of them from the moment they began playing their game and extended into their lives. The adventure was fun and a touch on the dangerous side but in all realistic.
Doll Bones also deals with family issues and first loves though it is by no means the focus of the book. The story is more about friendship, about growing up together, about being there for one another. I loved hearing about their game and longed to get involved because its definitively the kind of thing I’d have done when I was younger.
The tone of the story was a touch sad with the kids dreading leaving their childhood behind in different ways but it is filled with hope about moving on while still having fun. I guess that’s why I liked the story so much. I constantly struggle with the idea of moving on in life when I’d much prefer to stay a kid forever.
The story ended perfectly at just the right moment; any earlier it would have felt rushed, any later it would have been too final. This is a middle grade novel and though I can see teens and adults reading and appreciating the story, it is intended for a younger audience. It’s a story with a bit of everything from coming of age to ghosts and I recommend it to the middle grade lovers out there.