SUMMARY: Twelve-year olds Zach, Alice, and Poppy have been best friends for years. They love to play with dolls and action figures and have created stories for each one of their play characters. But when one of the dolls–the creepy Great Queen–tells Poppy that she was created from the bones and ashes of a murdered young girl, the three friends go on a multi-state road trip to return the doll to her hometown and bury her in her proper resting place.
REVIEW: To say this book is popular in my library would be an understatement. Middle schoolers love creepy doll stories, and the plot of Doll Bones makes it incredibly easy to booktalk. While it has some creepy moments, I doubt Doll Bones will give most middle school readers nightmares.
The story itself has its highs and lows, but for the most part, it flows well. It’s not perfect, but I did enjoy the celebration of creativity in the worlds the characters built with their toys. The pressure to grow up can be really tough on kids; I can remember having a friend who played with Barbies in sixth grade, and I felt kind of silly playing with them at my age. The gap between childhood and becoming a teen isn’t easy to navigate, and this story illustrates that realistically and honestly.
What this story has in creepiness, it lacks in character development. I really didn’t feel the relationship between the three friends. Though they are on a secret road trip together, they spend much of the time arguing and distrusting each other. I didn’t ever really understand why Zach didn’t just tell Alice and Poppy that his dad threw away his duffel bag.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Overall, while it’s not perfect, Doll Bones will be a hit with many middle school students who want scary books that won’t give them nightmares.
STATUS IN MY LIBRARY: We have one copy, but I have ordered three more. It’s popular and VERY easy to booktalk!
READALIKES: The Doll People (Martin); Behind the Attic Wall (Cassedy); The Dollhouse Murders (Wright)
- Overall: 3/5
- Creativity: 4/5
- Characters: 3/5
- Engrossing: 3/5
- Writing: 4/5
- Appeal to teens: 5/5
- Appropriate length to tell the story: 4/5
- Language: none
- Sexuality: none
- Violence: medium–Eleanor was murdered; creepy doll activities such as slashing a sleeping bag, walking on her own; the Queen is made from girl’s bones and ashes
- Drugs/Alcohol: none