Friday, September 27, 2013

REVIEW: Doll Bones by Holly Black

Title: Doll Bones
Author: Holly Black Website Twitter Facebook
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Release Date: May 7, 2013
Pages: 256
Buy It! amazon
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

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 . . .

First Thoughts: A cute story about friendship and growing up, albeit not as scary as I imagined. Definitely a great middle grade read although it doesn’t have the universal appeal I hoped for.

As a reader, I’m ashamed to say that this is my first Holly Black book (gasp!), although The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is sneaking up to the top of TBR list. It’s also one of the few middle grade books I’ve read in the last few years. I figured creepy cover, acclaimed author, and lots of hype - why not read it? Ultimately, I think this is a cute book, which probably isn’t a good thing since it’s supposed to be kind of creepy.

This is definitely a middle-grade book; I wanted it to be a bit more scary and eerie. The story starts out quite creepy. I mean just the concept of porcelain dolls alone gives me the heebie-jeebies. I used to get these dolls for Christmas when I was younger (don’t think I asked for them), and I can vividly remember one with green eyes that sat on the top of my shelf. Those piercing, possessed green eyes followed me wherever I went. But, after the Queen’s introduction, the creepiness waned. I needed more of the ghost and paranormal side of the story, and that’s saying a lot since I am the biggest baby ever! I did, however, really enjoy the adventure story that the kids themselves imagined - pirates, the Queen, world domination - I almost wish Black wrote that story too.

Although the scary side of the story lacked (again, middle grade audience), I loved the friendship between the three main characters. The book is a great depiction of the awkwardness EVERYONE experiences during middle school, and it is clear that these characters are searching for their identities. They are stuck between being kids and on the edge of becoming teenagers. I also liked how Black addressed the role of gender stereotypes. I see kids like Zach everyday (in fact, he reminded me a lot of my nephew). He still wants to play with his action figures, he still wants to believe in imaginary worlds, and he still wants to just be a kid. He doesn’t want to grow up, play sports, and do what a boy is “supposed” to do. Because of that, he tugged on my heart strings. We shouldn’t force kids to grow up; heck I still want to play with toys and believe in the imagined.

Doll Bones reminded me why I don’t read a lot of middle grade books - I don’t have anyone to recommend them to. Although I told my students about it (they saw the super-creepy cover and were intrigued), I can’t see any of them picking it up. There are just too many good, scary young adult novels out there for my horror fans. Now, if any of you are middle grade teachers or parents of tweens, add this book to your recommendation list; I think younger readers will eat this story up!

Final Thoughts: Creepy cover, cute story, beautiful friendships - in the end, this is simply a good middle grade story.

Who Should Read It? Add this to the list for middle grade readers - it has friendship, identity-searching and just enough creepiness to keep tweens on the edges of their seats. There’s not enough scary to give anyone nightmares, unless of course they have porcelain dolls in their rooms. It’s just a cute, quick read based on the difficulties of growing up.

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