London, Doubleday, 2013, 244p
Zach's dad thinks he's too old to play with dolls. At twelve years old, Zach spends a lot of his time hanging out with Alice and Poppy, and together they embark on the most epic of adventures in the safety of their own back gardens. But when Zach's dad throws away all his toys, Poppy and Alice resort to borrowing the most valued of all their play toys, the Queen.
But the Queen has a secret, one she shares with the children by haunting their dreams. Her real name is Eleanor Kircher, and she died in 1895. Now, she wants to return home to her grave, and the children take it upon themselves to do this for the poor toy. So they set off in the dead of night, learning more about the dark history of Eleanor along the way.
Wrapped in a black cover with a horrifying illustration of a doll on the front, Doll Bones is made to cause nightmares. The Queen is a strange toy, and so much happens around her that is impossible to explain. Adults seem to see her as a human rather than a toy, and at night, the doll seems to come alive, moving unexpectedly whilst the children sleep.
This novel is not as haunting as some of the books I have read recently, though it is well written and has many spooky moments. Dolls are one of those objects that are conventionally terrifying, being inanimate and yet strangely alive. But this book caused no sleepless nights, which is arguably a very good thing!
There is more to this novel than the Gothic, and that is the physical and emotional journey that the friends take. They are all on the cusp of adulthood, soon to grow into teenagers and experience all the trials that brings; but they have this one last adventure together, and we, the reader, are lucky enough to be able to go with them.