I received a free copy of this book as part of a goodreads giveaway. Huzzah! 😀 By way of thanks, here’s a review.
As Doll Bones has won many prizes, such as Kirkus Review’s Best Book, School Library Journal Best Book, Booklist Editor’s Choice Books for Youth and People Magazine Best New Kid’s Book (among others) this review’s going to go towards this year’s Eclectic Reader Challenge.
Zach, Poppy and Alice’s friendship is centered around the imaginary world they’ve created together and have been playing in with their toys for as long as they’ve known each other. When Zach turns 12, his father bins his toys in the hope that this will help him to grow up and become manly, the distraught boy ends his friendship with the girls. Poppy has other ideas and attempts to re-start the game by creating what seems to be an irresistible quest line for the three of them to play. One that involves the Queen- a bone china doll that has long scared the three.
As the three try to set the Queen free, the lines between the real world and the imaginary blur and Zach, Alice and Poppy end up on a journey they’re not sure they’ll be able to complete.
First things first: the cover and illustrations are gorgeous and complement the story well with their atmospheric shading (for the illustrations) and the dead-eyed stare of Eleanor-the-doll (on the cover) and so deserve special mention. The artist’s portfolio can be found here.
I started out with high hopes for this book and, for the most part, Doll Bones delivered. From the beginning, Black juxtaposed the grandness of quests and stories that take place in other books and the realm of the imagination with the often humorously anti-climatic reality of ‘real world’ adventures.
Despite ticking all the right boxes to fit the ‘paranormal bildungsroman’ category, I personally didn’t find the story too bone-chilling, nor the main character’s development to be too profound. However a younger reader (aka. one of the target audience) would probably be able to enjoy the mild spookiness without being truly terrified.
The only part that really jarred was the love/ romance element. Yes, it created a convenient motive for one of the character’s actions which in turn moved the story along. Yes, Zach’s evident discomfort at finding out about Alice’s feelings for him went a long way towards making its inclusion feel more realistic but it still felt too forced to sit comfortably with me. Additionally both Poppy and Alice felt rather underdeveloped (read: a little bland and indistinguishable from each other) as characters.
Whilst well-written, this wasn’t entirely my cup of tea. Nonetheless younger readers may be interested in this as it touches on some of the changes that adolescence brings. I’d be interested in reading more of Black’s work in the future as it was an enjoyable read, if not one that I’ll be raving about to others.