Audiobook Reviews from Audiobook-Heaven
by Holly Black
narrated by Nick Podehl
Copyright: 2013 Listening Library
Duration: 5 hours, 15 minutes unabridged
Genres: supernatural, adventure, middle grade
Filed in: Audiobook Reviews
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PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY: A doll that may be haunted leads three friends on a thrilling adventure in this delightfully creepy novel from the New York Times best-selling cocreator of the Spiderwick Chronicles.
Zach, Poppy, and Alice have been friends forever. And for almost as long, they’ve been playing one continuous, ever-changing game of pirates and thieves, mermaids and warriors. Ruling over all is the Great Queen, a bone-china doll cursing those who displease her. But they are in middle school now. Zach’s father pushes him to give up make-believe, and Zach quits the game. Their friendship might be over, until Poppy declares she’s been having dreams about the Queen - and the ghost of a girl who will not rest until the bone-china doll is buried in her empty grave.
Zach and Alice and Poppy set off on one last adventure to lay the Queen’s ghost to rest. But nothing goes according to plan, and as their adventure turns into an epic journey, creepy things begin to happen. Is the doll just a doll or something more sinister? And if there really is a ghost, will it let them go now that it has them in its clutches?
©2013 Holly Black (P)2013 Listening Library
AUDIOBOOK REVIEW: Three twelve-year-old friends, Zach, Alice, and Poppy, are very much into the fantasy world they have created. They spend hours and hours creating, then acting out, elaborate storylines for their various dolls and action figures. With three very fertile imaginations at work, the story never really ends; it evolves over time. One thing always remains constant, however, and that is the Queen doll. The Queen is a fragile bone-china doll that resides in a glass display case at Poppy’s house and they are not allowed to touch her. This gives the Queen mystical qualities in their eyes and she presides over all their adventures as Queen and Sorceress.
Then one day Zach suddenly decides he doesn’t want to play anymore. Alice and Poppy don’t understand why, and Zach is not only unwilling to share his reasons but becomes very angry when they even try to bring it up. What the girls don’t know is that Zach’s on-again off-again father threw out all of Zach’s toys claiming that, “You’re getting too old for toys anyway.” Zach is simply too angry and confused and embarrassed to explain to Alice and Poppy what happened.
It seems that the special friendship the three shared will come to an end until Alice and Poppy show up outside Zach’s bedroom window late one night with an incredible story about murder, a haunted doll, and uneasy spirits. Poppy claims that her mother’s special doll, the Queen, is haunting her dreams. She insists that the maker of the doll used the bones of his own daughter in its construction, the daughter he murdered after going insane. The little girl’s spirit will never be able to rest unless they take the doll to a nearby town and bury it in the cemetery. Out of respect for their friend, and perhaps as one last adventurous hurrah, Zach and Alice agree to accompany her.
It’s a quest straight out of the fantastic storybooks the three children are all familiar with. On their journey they will board a bus, encounter an old wino who claims aliens will try to steal their faces, camp in the woods, steal a boat for a “sea voyage” on the river, and break into a library. During their adventure they will learn a lot about each other and about themselves, and they will also come to realize that their childhood is nearly over. Zach and Alice seem ready to move on to the next stage of their lives, but for Poppy it is more difficult. Maybe it’s because Zach and Alice come from broken homes and were forced to grow up sooner than most, but whatever the reason Poppy can sense that things will never be the same. Author Holly Black illustrates this point beautifully in this passage:
“No, you’re right,” Poppy said, her voice speeding up and getting louder, like she was afraid she was going to be cut off before she got it all out. “It’s not fair. We had a story, and our story was important. And I hate that both of you can just walk away and take part of my story with you and not even care. I hate that you can do what you’re supposed to do and I can’t. 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.”
The first time I picked up Doll Bones it sounded to me like a horror story. And indeed there are elements of the paranormal at play here although I love how Holly Black leaves us wondering how much of it is actually happening and how much is the product of the children’s overactive imaginations, but it is so much more than that. This is a story about growing up, being caught somewhere between childhood and adulthood, it’s about adventure and going on a quest. This is a journey that will bring a magical kind of friendship to the very brink of ruin, and one that will certainly change Zach, Poppy, and Alice forever. Doll Bones is beautifully written and if you’re not careful, you may find yourself transported back to your own childhood and the magical days of the long-forgotten past.
Nick Podehl did a fine job in his narration of Doll Bones. He uses an impressive array of voices to animate the story and I thought his voices for the old wino on the bus and the prim and proper librarian were especially appropriate. Podehl is an AudioFile Earphones Best Voice in Young Adult for 2010 and Best Voice in Young Adult & Fantasy for 2011. In an interview with AudioFile, Podehl said that he enjoys narrating YA books because the more exaggerated personalities allow for more range in the narration. That definitely shows in his narration of Doll Bones. Well done Mr. Podehl!
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Special thanks to Listening Library for this review copy. Audiobook review by Steven Brandt. This audiobook review is based on the unabridged audiobook. Come back soon for more audiobook reviews from Audiobook-Heaven.