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All this snow is spoiling me. So few people are in Prospect Park and even fewer are on the paths. Yesterday I counted six other runners and two cross-country skiers. Today a handful more runners and one skier. My run was so satisfying I added on another 2 miles, bringing my total for the week up to 32 miles. Not bad considering the snowstorm. The feels like was 2 degrees F this morning, but the only big change I made was wearing both my synthetic hat and fleece balaclava plus two pairs of socks because my shoes are mesh and favorite paths are still covered in crunchy snow. Wet feet, be gone.

Now my station is playing Dave Hause and I’ve just finished another fantastic book by Holly Black, who also wrote The Coldest Girl in Coldtown. Doll Bones is a middle grade novel, but it’s the kind of book adults can enjoy, too. Who doesn’t love a good story about growing up that hinges on a creepy doll? While there’s nothing wrong with adults reading kids books, I have to admit I chose this one on my alone week figuring it would be fun, but not so scary that I turn on all the lights and consider bunking with my neighbors. They wouldn’t like that.

Doll Bones by Holly Black

Doll Bones by Holly Black

Zach, Poppy and Alice and three best friends who are 12-years-old and still playing with dolls, but it’s not really something they want the world to know. Because they’re also getting growth spurts and crushes – the usual signs of adolescence coming on. But together they’ve woven epic plot lines with curses, queens and pirated from questionable parentage. Playing the game still brings out the best sides of them and they see no reason to stop. That is until Zach’s dad tries to push him into growing up by throwing out his dolls.

If you ever had a doll or tough guy action figure that you identified with so acutely that it felt like an extension of you, you can imagine how crushed Zach is. But rather than show his sorrow he embraces his anger and pushes his friends away even though ending the game makes him feel like a piece of him is missing.

He wondered whether growing up was learning that most stories turned out to be lies.

Things turn from gloomy to spooky when Poppy discovers that an old china doll  in her mom’s cabinet is actually made of a little girl’s bones. The same girl who’s haunting her until the bones are properly laid to rest in her home town. And like that the journey begins. It’s a quest with the highest stakes – their friendship.

Zach, Poppy and Alice are at that fleeting stage between childhood and adolescence when fear of what people will think can prevent them from sharing the silliest, most adventurous parts of themselves, if they let it. That’s part of what makes the story so compelling despite being made of equal parts cute and macabre. The mystery behind the doll girl’s death and the urgency to find her grave before their parents realize they’re missing keeps the plot hopping along at a brisk pace, but you’re also emotionally invested because you want this to be about holding on to good things, not the casualties of growing up.

Holly Black is a marvelous writer. She makes it look so easy, but I can’t hold it against her because her books make me happy. This is a fun one to pass on to kids, but do yourself a favor and read it first. Just be warned there’s one scene in particular that will make you crave weird doughnuts. I’m talking fizzy pop rocks and Pepto-Bismol flavors. It doesn’t sound good, but I need one.

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