Title: Doll Bones
Author: Holly Black
Narrator: Nick Podehl
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books (Simon & Schuster)
Release Date: May 7th, 2013
Interest: Audio narrator / #titletalk Recommendation
Source: Purchased via Audible
Summary (From 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 . . .
I don’t think I would have read Doll Bones if Nick Podehl wasn’t narrator; he’s one of my favorite audiobook narrators. As usual, I enjoyed his narration and how he brought the story to life. I will admit, however, that since I’ve listened to so many books he’s narrated I started hearing other characters instead of the ones in Doll Bones. For instance, Zach’s dad sounds a lot like one of the dads from Swim the Fly by Don Calame. I don’t know if there’s anything Nick Podehl can really do about that, but there it is. Also, since this is a shorter book at 244 pages, the audio is only just over five hours long. After finishing The Help, even though I enjoyed that immensely, it was nice to listen to a shorter audiobook.
Doll Bones wasn’t a book I was considering until I kept seeing it mentioned in a #titletalk chat a month or so ago. Once I looked it up and saw that Nick Podehl narrates it I was sold. Unfortunately, this middle grade title didn’t work for me.
I will give Holly Black some credit–she’s written a nice story of friendship and the awkward time between being a kid and moving on to being a teen. I can see why middle grade readers will enjoy this.
Porcelain dolls creep me out, and based on what I saw on Twitter I expected this to be creepy. It really isn’t, at least for me. There’s so much potential for this to be scary though. I understand that it probably shouldn’t be too scary, considering the audience, but it could have used a little more suspense. I was hoping for something creepy like Coraline. Now that is a spooky book, especially the graphic novel. Doll Bones? Not so much. There are a few paranormal-type scenes, but they didn’t go far enough. If they had, I probably would have enjoyed this that much more.
The pacing is off as well. For being a shorter book, it felt long at times. There are scenes with lots of discussion and not enough action, especially when the doll is concerned which surprised me. I would have expected those scenes to move at a faster, more suspenseful pace. I found myself more interested in the game storyline Zach, Poppy, and Alice created than the actual story Holly Black wrote.
Now this has nothing to do with Holly Black and her writing, but I have to mention the cover. If you don’t already know this, and I didn’t before reading the book, Doll Bones is narrated by Zach. I never would have guessed that a book called Doll Bones with a doll on the cover was narrated by a twelve-year-old boy. I know readers should look past covers and guy books vs. girl books, but I really can’t see a middle grade boy picking this up off the shelf and thinking “This is a book for me.” Yet I think plenty of boys like Zach would like this book. I’m sure there are lots of boys who want to play with their “figures” and get harassed by parents about growing up and moving on. I’m also confident that plenty of boys are teetering between playing with “figures” and moving on to more “grown up” activities. Reading Zach’s story might help them navigate those awkward waters better. Unfortunately, despite how often many of us try to get kids to look past covers, many of them can’t get past it. I hope I’m not right, but I think the cover of Doll Bones will turn away more boys than it will draw in.