Doll Bones by Holly Black
Borrowed audiobook on cd from the Camden County Library System
Three children, lifelong friends, have been playing a role playing adventure game for years. They each have a collection of action figures and scenes that they bring with them. Polly, is the youngest child in a large family. The game gets played at her house. Alice lives with her very overprotective grandmother and then there's Zach. He loves the game. He still considers the girls his best friends, but he's a star of the school basketball team and the guys are pulling him in a new direction. His parents recently reconciled and it's difficult for Zach to deal with his dad's intrusion in his life.
After a particularly exciting day playing the game with the girls, Zach's dad throws away all of his action figures. The boy is angry with his father, who believes that he's too old to play with toys and play his make believe game with Polly and Alice. He can't bring himself to tell the girls what happened, so he just tells them he doesn't want to play anymore.
In a glass case in Polly's house are all of her mother's valuable objects. The kids all know they aren't supposed to touch them. Center in the case is an old porcelain doll that Zach, Polly and Alice call "the queen." The queen always plays a role in their game play.
The girls are hurt by Zach's sudden change in attitude toward them and about the game. But, they reach out to him late one night asking him to come on one last quest with them. This one is real. Poppy's been visited by the ghost of a girl, whose ashes they believe are part of the porcelain doll. She told Polly that she needs to be returned to her grave.
The three friends set out, unsure of where they are going, or how much trouble they will be in if they get caught. The threat of eternal curse if they can't get the doll, made from the remains of a murdered child back to her grave where she belongs, sets them on the path. No one, including Polly is sure if it is real, but it feels real to her.
This middle grade adventure is sure to catch the attention of kids and hold it as the three friends go on their own epic adventure, and find out if they can move forward with their lives and whether or not they'll still be friends when it's over. Holly Black has a great sense of her audience. Here she's created three kids who seem very real and believable. I would imagine any later grade elementary school or middle school student could feel like there was some of them in one of the three friends.