DOLL BONES by Holly Black

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It’s not that Zach doesn’t care what other kids think of him. He does his best to hide his secret imaginative life from his friends on the basketball team. But it’s worth the risk of getting caught in order to keep playing the game with Poppy and Alice. When Zach is being William the Blade, it is like his whole identity changes; he becomes a pirate. And the creepy bone China doll they pretend is their queen really seems to have deadly powers. When Zach’s dad throws away all of his action figures, Zach feels like his world is falling apart. He can’t get up the courage to tell Poppy and Alice why he can’t play anymore. But the bone China doll isn’t about to let Zach go so easily. A ghost appears to Poppy in a dream and suddenly Zach and his friends find themselves on a real adventure every bit as dangerous and magical as any of their games.

This creepy adventure story combines the family and friendship tensions of growing up with an intriguing ghost story. I wouldn’t call it scary, but it definitely has a chilling tone at times. The main thrust of the book, however, is the evolving character relationships and Zach’s coming of age. I would recommend this book to middle grade readers who enjoy fantasy adventures set in the real world.

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