Monday, September 30, 2013
Marvelous Middle Grade Monday: DOLL BONES by Holly Black
What It's About: (via 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 . . .
Opening Lines: "Poppy set down one of the mermaid dolls close to the stretch of asphalt road that represented the Blackest Sea. They were old--bought from Goodwill--with big shiny heads, different-colored tails, and frizzy hair."
What I Liked: Shameful admission time, but I haven't yet read The Spiderwick Chronicles by Holly Black and Tony diTerlizzi. So, I don't know how this stand-alone novel compares. What I do know is that I am spooked by dolls. (When I was young, I watched a movie that had a hideous doll that came to life. The famous line I remember was : "Rosa doesn't like you. She will punish you." Avid Googling has failed to turn up the name of this movie, so perhaps I was just possessed...) Thus, having a potentially haunted china doll causing all sorts of problems for Zach, Poppy, and Alice ratcheted the creep factor up nicely.
And it is creepy. The effect, I believe, is a result of the narrative voice--Zach's POV, but quite distant, allowing the narrative voice to say things like: "He wasn't sure how much time had passed when he finally stopped crying. It was a beautiful day--crisp, the way early fall days can be warm but have an occasional chill wind. The sky overhead was as blue as spilled ink from a pen. Leaves shivered above him." The narrative voice overlays the character's senses, making such lyrical descriptions possible.
Talking about descriptions--this is definitely one of Holly Black's strengths. She does a marvelous job portraying the dying heart of East Liverpool, and her passages about sailing make you feel like you own a boat yourself.
The story also has to do with testing friendships, and with children being on the cusp of growing up--and realizing they're growing up. As Poppy says: "I hate that you're going to leave me behind. I hate that everyone calls it growing up, but it seems like dying. It feels like each of you is being possessed and I'm next."
For kids that like creepiness in their stories, this one's a definite keeper!
About the Author (From Goodreads bio):
Holly Black is a best-selling author of contemporary fantasy novels for kids, teens, and adults. She is the author of the Modern Faerie Tale series (Tithe, Valiant, and Ironside), The Spiderwick Chronicles (with Tony DiTerlizzi), and The Good Neighbors graphic novels (with Ted Naifeh) The Poison Eaters and Other Stories, a collection of short fiction, and The Curse Worker series (White Cat, Red Glove, and Black Heart). She is also the co-editor of three anthologies, Geektastic (with Cecil Castellucci), Zombies vs. Unicorns (with Justine Larbalestier), and Welcome to Bordertown(with Ellen Kushner). Her most recent works are the middle grade novel, Doll Bones, and the dark fantasy stand-alone, The Coldest Girl in Coldtown.
She lives in Massachusetts with her husband, Theo, in a house with a secret library.
Follow Holly Black on Twitter!