Joelene Reviews: Holly Black's - "Doll Bones"

Black_dollZachary, Poppy and Alice are best friends and spend their afternoons making up elaborate worlds for their dolls and action figures to play in: a world ruled by a creepy and ancient Queen – a terrifying doll that is locked inside Poppy’s mother’s cabinet. For Zach and Alice, it’s an escape from the demands their families make on them while; for Poppy, it’s a good outlet for her imagination. Everything changes when Zach’s father decides that he’s too old to be playing with toys and throws them all out.

Zach doesn’t want to tell his friends what has happened, deciding to quit the game instead. He hadn’t reckoned on the Queen. When she starts invading Poppy’s dreams, claiming to be made from the bones of a murdered girl, the three children must take up a quest to set her to rest.

Doll Bones is an epic fantasy quest in the guise of middle-school urban fantasy. It is aimed at a younger age group than the Tale of Modern Faerie or Curse Workers books; but slightly older than the Spiderwick Chronicles.

While the fantasy element of Doll Bones is fascinating, as always, it is the wider social politics that kept my interest. All three children are on the quest to prove something in their real lives. Each of them has their own character arc and as the story unfurls the tensions between them rise. Zachary is hanging on to childhood while his father tries to force him out of it. Alice is struggling against her grandmother who, while her sole guardian, hails from a different generation and background. All of them are keeping secrets and, as with any good quest, those secrets will come out.

With its twelve-year-old protagonists and their interest in toys, Doll Bones is entrenched in middle-grade literature, but it has enough elements that surpass that to appeal to teens and adults. Rather than the often explored dynamic of adults who don’t understand the children – or adults having the answer to everything – the parents and guardians in Doll Bones are just as lost as their kids.

Doll Bones perfectly captures the imaginative fantasy realms that children create while addressing more mature issues like family dysfunction and growing up. It is a deliciously creepy read with characters that you can root for, even when they are in the wrong.


Doll Bones – Holly Black

Doubleday (May 7, 2013)

ISBN: 9780552568111

  • Baby Bat Krista

    I have had this book on my radar for awhile and excited to read it, I was happy to see that you found it enjoyable !

    • I think Joelene adores Holly Black! 🙂

      • Joelene

        It’s true. Holly Black is pretty much a literary God. So far nothing she has written has disproved the theory. I hope you like the book, Krista!

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