Title: Doll Bones
Author: Holly Black
Genre: MG Horror
Received for review from NetGalley
Summary (from Goodreads)
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 . .
I’m not massively familiar with Holly Black’s books – I’ve read a grand total of one before – but reading this made me really want to go through her back catalogue.
Doll Bones is deliciously creepy – perfectly pitched for the target audience. There’s an underlying sense of spookiness without it becoming too much – a find line to walk, and Holly Black walks it beautifully. Dolls themselves are pretty much horrible enough, but there are some genuinely spooky moments, with visions that only some people can see, destroyed campsites and exploring an empty library.
Of course, there’s plenty that middle grade readers will relate to, as well, with themes about growing up and friendship that broke up the mild horror tension to prevent it from becoming too much. The characters were great, well realised and played off each other nicely. The adventure was just big enough to be incredible without being unbelievable.
In fact, this book is less about the fantastical, and more about the hidden ‘horror’ of normal situations – the fear of growing up, of asking a girl you like to the cinema, of overprotective carers and loss.
All in all, it was a haunting, atmospheric book that perfectly blended spooky haunting horror with a few elements that the target audience will find frightening in their every day lives. A really enjoyable quick read, with lovely illustrations to boot.