Review: Doll Bones by Holly Black

March 4, 2015 3.5 stars, Book Review 11 ★★★½

Review: Doll Bones by Holly BlackDoll Bones by Holly Black
Published by Listening Library, Margaret K McElderry Books on May 7, 2013
Genres: Middle Grade & Childrens, Paranormal
Pages: 247
Length: 5 hours, 15 minutes
Narrator: Nick Podehl
Source: Purchased
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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 . . .


​Doll Bones is a somewhat coming of age middle grade story of three 12 year olds on a quest mixed with light paranormal elements. These three pre-teens have been playing together since they were little kids making up very elaborate adventure type storylines for their toys until one day Zach tells Poppy and Alice that he doesn’t want to play anymore.

Poppy and Alice don’t understand why he wouldn’t want to play anymore when just the day before everything was fine between all of them. But unbeknownst to the girls, Zach’s father who had just recently come back to live with him and his mother threw away all of his toys that night and Zach is so ashamed of how much it has effected him that he can’t bring himself to tell the girls the real reason he feels he can’t play. It just so happens that same week Poppy says their queen China doll (who the three kids have always considered to be the Queen of all their toys) has communicated with her and says that she is really made from the bones of a murdered girl. Poppy says the Queen needs them to put her to rest in in her grave.

Setting out on a quest

Zach seems to be the main focus of Doll Bones. To me it was really his story and struggle with coming of age and whether to believe in the things that people (adults really) say. Or is everything just a lie. His struggles about what is real and what isn’t and your own powers of determination are really what make this story. While the girls Poppy and Alice are interesting they are more just there for support to the life lesson he is going through. As it seen when they don’t decide to go on the trip really until Zach agrees. And thus the three of them set out to travel hours away without parents, on their own, in the middle of the night to fulfill the dolls request. They don’t know whether Poppy is being honest with them but they all want to believe and odd mysterious things have been happening to then along the way.

Doll Bones was an extremely short but sweet read that I think middle graders will enjoy. It doesn’t have a heavy paranormal aspect to it just one that you could conceivably write off as the active imaginations of children. But it does have a really nice message about growing up, family and friends.

In regards to the narration of the audio version

I adored the narration of this. The voice / dialogue transitions were really well done and I felt the narrator really captured the essence of these three youths.

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Tabitha (Pabkins)

When I'm in the zone I can flip book pages faster than the eye can see - screaming "More Input!" I'm a book, yarn, & art supply hoarding goblin who loves to draw, make toys and craft all sorts of creepy cute things. My current habit is to listen to audio books while I'm arting it up!
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11 Responses to “Review: Doll Bones by Holly Black”

  1. Melissa (My words and pages)

    Oh this sounds like a neat story with the girls. Somehow I’d not heard of this story before. Cool. Thank you!

  2. Emily Alfano

    i’m glad to hear you got on with this book so well! i wasn’t really sure how i would feel reading middle grade level by Holly Black, because I love her YA so much (she’s one of my favorite authors)and i tend to feel a little too old reading middle grade at my age, but i might have to give this one a go! great review Tab!
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  3. AlyssaZ

    Blah, I didn’t like this one. I found Zach to be dull. I also felt like the story took me nowhere. Nice to see some other commenters like this story as well. Different books for different people!
    AlyssaZ recently posted…The Infinite Book BlitzMy Profile

  4. Diamond Dee @ Dee's Reads

    I listened to the audiobook too!! You don’t know how rare that is for me haha! I really enjoyed it though, the narration was good. I listened to a few Holly Black audiobooks and liked all of what I listened to. I just rented Darkest Part of the Forest, so I can’t wait to listen to that one too.

    I really liked Zach’s character too. I agree he was the main and I liked his growth, it felt real too…his interaction with his dad and stuff. I felt like the story was so unique and creepy..especially w/the doll..The personalities of the trio were an interesting mix too!
    Great review Tabitha! What’s your favorite Holly Black book? I want to read more of her. 😉
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