Doll Bones (2013) by Holly Black is a creepy young adult novel about three middle school friends, Zach, Poppy, and Alice, who still enjoy elaborate make believe scenarios using dolls and old toys. The “Queen” of their game is an old China doll that Poppy’s mom keeps locked in a glass cabinet, and when Poppy removes the doll from the cabinet to lure Zach into playing the game, Poppy begins to dream about Eleanor Kerchner, a ghost trapped within the doll.
Zach, Poppy, and Alice then embark on a REAL adventure that puts them on a bus in the middle of the night, unbeknownst to their families, in order to bury Eleanor in the cemetery with her father. The trio encounters obstacles like a depraved old man, adults who think they are runaways, lack of money, transportation issues, hunger, and a librarian who holds them hostage. Along the journey, each of them realize they are changing…maturing into a teenager and that life will be different, but that is okay.
This novel is designed for middle school ages and is a great odyssey with depth and complexity, not often found at this age level. Recommended!