Monday, May 06, 2013

Review: Doll Bones by Holly Black

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I received this book for free from Random House UK in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Doll Bones by Holly BlackDoll Bones by Holly Black
Published by Margaret K. McElderry Books on May 7th 2013
Genres: Adventure, Middle-Grade
Source: Random House UK
Buy on Amazon

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 . . .

Holly Black is one of few who can write something as cute as it is creepy!

Doll Bones is a Middle Grade novel that is full of adventure and friendship–really the only type of MG books I read and enjoy. It’s the story of Zach, Poppy, and Alice who have been friends for such a long time that their friendship feels familiar even to us. I immediately felt attuned to their mutual trust and support. Not giving in when the other kids laughed at them for playing with action figures. But then one day the game got a little bit more real, and it involves a creepy devil doll who is made of little girl bones!

“Her clay was made from human bones. Little girl bones. That hair threaded through the scalp is the little girl’s hair. And the body of the doll is filled with her leftover ashes.”

*shivers* Obviously, there is a fantastic creepy factor to this book, mostly all due to this hell’s creature doll, but the fact remains that it is an MG novel so it’s the fun kind of creepy– nothing to give you nightmares over, but still enough to appease the creep fanatics such as myself. A lot of it is due to it being open to interpretation: Did the doll really move itself during the night, or was it the animal who trashed their campsite? This is why movies like The Blair Witch Project became so popular, or why most books are better than movies; imagination can be most powerful. Imagination is what’s at the heart of this whole book; it’s what brought the friends together from day 1, and it’s what turned this story into a fantasy adventure.

If imagination is at its heart, it’s the friendship that keeps it beating. These kids, determined and stubborn, go through a fair amount of difficulty to get to where they want to go and, even though there are many arguments and disagreements, they stick up and care for each other until the end. The narrator being Zach, we’re privy to what it’s like to be a young, hurt, pre-teenaged boy who wishes he could stay a kid for just a little while longer. These kids are 12 year olds, thus are still in that imaginative stage without being too childish. So we get a pretty balanced read with some dangerous happenings, a little thievery, risky antics, but it’s all in good fun. To keep things even more interesting, aside from the doll we’re kept from forgetting, we get a mysterious and quite disturbing story that surrounds the death of the girl whom she was created from–or so we’re told πŸ˜‰

Delightfully sweet with a deliciously eerie vibe, Doll Bones is perfect for the young at hearts who like to plunge into a fun adventure that has all the innocence of a child’s story, but the excellent storytelling any adult can enjoy.


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Canadian blogger, wife, mother, coffee lover, and sarcastic at heart! She has had a love for all things bookish since before Amazon and eReaders existed *le gasp*. You can also find her organizing tours and other fun things at Xpresso Book Tours.

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30 Responses to “Review: Doll Bones by Holly Black”

  1. Nick

    Sam from Realm of Fiction also praised this book and I have to say even though I don’t read MG, I’m tempted to give this one a try. It does sound pretty creepy and I like the sound of the characters. Lovely review, Giselle!

  2. Mary @ BookSwarm

    Ooh, sounds shivery and fabulous! Holly Black really is an expert at manipulating our emotions with her storytelling. And dolls creep me out. Especially ones with real hair and ashes inside. *shudders*

  3. Amy

    This definitely sounds like a book I would love. I have wanted to read it since I first heard about it. I think that the whole doll thing really made me interested. Dolls are just so creepy!! Awesome review love!!

  4. Christianna Marks

    I’m so glad that you liked this one so much! I love the idea behind it and I’ve been looking forward to it for awhile! It kinda sounds like Coraline, a little bit! I glad that it’s a good mix of creepy and cute and keeps itself rooted in the imagination! Sounds like a winner to me!

  5. Siiri

    It’s funny since it sounds a little creepy and it’s a MG book? Hmhhh.. LOL. Funny indeed. Glad it doesn’t give one nightmares since I’m a huge chickenshit when it comes to that. I don’t even watch any horror movies -.- Anyhow, I love the cover and I’ve yet to read a Holly Black book. I think I’m gonna start with that White Cat one (is this the first book in that series?). I do know that if anyone asks about a creepy MG book then I know which one to recommend:-) Lovely review, hon!

  6. Megan K.

    I’m not one to read middle-grade novels, but Doll Bones really caught my attention. It’s great that you enjoyed it so, Giselle! The doll definitely sounds sinister. I think I’d really like this story, too. Lovely review as always, chickie!

  7. Kristin@BloodSweatandBooks

    I keep seeing this book pop up everywhere. Between the cover, your review and the premise I’m really intrigued. I’m also loving the cover it is creepy and yet due to being drawn instead of an actual photo it retains a lightheartedness about it.

  8. Alexa Y.

    Dolls, porcelain dolls in particular, scare the heck out of me! So that cover is already making me freak out internally. The story does sound like it would be a lot of fun to read though, especially since it’s MG. I do have a soft spot for MG books.

  9. Lauren Elizabeth

    I love Holly Black, she’s never let me down before, so I’m sure I’ll love this. I love middle grade books that have strong friendships, and I’m always down for a good creepy story that gets your imagination going. I really loved Coraline, which was also equally cute and creepy, so I have high hopes for this one! Wonderful review πŸ™‚

  10. Nereyda @Mostly YA Book Obsessed

    This one sounds so creepy and not something I normally read. I haven’t read an MG book in a very long time. Lately I’ve been finding it hard to relate to (some) YA books.
    I would love to see how this story would turn out if it were YA or adult.

  11. Amanda

    I definitely plan on reading this, despite the fact that I don’t generally read MG novels. I was quite impressed with the one Holly Black book I read recently, and I’ve heard so many good things about her other books. I am not a huge fan of creepy, but I think I can handle MG -level creepy. And the focus on friendship sounds great. I definitely don’t read enough books focused on childhood friendships. Lovely review, Giselle!

  12. Ariella Blake

    The cover of Doll Bones is so cute and I definitely want to pick this one up. I’ve never read anything by Holly Black even though I heard her books are awesome. It is MG and I love kids books. I’ll definitely read this one!!

    -Ariella @ Secrets of Lost Words

  13. Eileen


    “Holly Black is the only author I know who can write a book as creepy as it is cute.”

    Something like that. I do not lie I totally read this twenty-four hours ago and I was like “I’ll read the rest when it goes up on Giselle’s blog so I can write a better comment” but now it’s HERE! So the one time I decide not to finish the review it goes up when the stuff is still fresh into my mind. BUT ANYHOO.

    (I can even prove that I just wrote that thing because I haven’t read any of the review yet I just scrolled down to show off my memorization skills.) Although, now that I’m reading that first line again I got it TOTALLY wrong. Whoops.

    Fantastic review, Giselle! I’m really happy you enjoyed this one. The amount of imagination you have to do seems like an aspect that can go either way; on one hand someone might like the amount of thinking they can do themselves, and on the other hand, you might not like how much freedom you get to think for yourself. (That sounded a lot like a dystopian dictatorship.)

    And the friendship between the characters seems amazing and so does the cute/creepiness of this. OMG I remember you saying something in your review of The Evolution of Mara Dyer how utterly CREEPY dolls are, but I really want to read this now because it seems like the perfect mix πŸ™‚

  14. Candace

    I guess I didn’t realize this one was MG, I just assumed it was YA. I didn’t read the description or anything though.
    It sounds pretty good and while I don’t do horror I think that since it’s MG I can probably handle it. Maybe… πŸ˜‰

  15. Andye ReadingTeen

    My daughter read this one and it totally freaked her out! haha! Good to know it’s good for adults as well, we have the audio, so I think I might have to steal it from her! πŸ˜€

  16. Micheline D

    Ah! Fantastic review! This is exactly the kind of read I was hoping for when I first saw Doll Bones!! You know me with the creepy, if it’s MG or YA I can handle it and I want it πŸ˜€ This sounds terribly well written and a fun read – thanks for sharing!!

  17. Molli

    If imagination is at its heart, it’s the friendship that keeps it beating.

    Well that alone makes me want to read this one! I love how you praised this one, Giselle. I also LOVE creepy/scary stuff SO I may have to run and add this one to my TBR. I haven’t read anything by Holly Black, but this one might be the one to start with.