Three friends, Poppy, Alice and Zach, have been playing a game of pretend since they were in elementary school. Plastic action figures and paper boats become pirates battling evil mermaids on the seven seas. The center of the crusade is the Great Queen, which is actually an antique china doll locked in Poppy’s mother’s china cabinet.

Things start to change when the kids get to middle school. Zach gets busy with basketball and is starting to feel embarrassed playing pretend with girls. This is made worse by Zach’s father who thinks it is time for Zach to grow up.

Then Poppy comes to them with a story that the Great Queen is haunting her dreams and wants them to take the doll to her final burying place in another town. If they don’t, the Great Queen will haunt them all forever. Is it just another one of Poppy’s stories or is the doll really haunted? Strange things start happening. Spooky things. They go on their adventure and their friendship is tested to the breaking point.

I loved this story. Holly Black does a great job of capturing the middle school fence and how tweens are perched between innocent, playful childhood behind them and the rocky, intense, peer-pressured teen years ahead of them. What happens when close friends go over the fence at different times? Will the haunted doll bind them together forever? Or will their friendship be buried in the past along with the doll bones?

I highly recommend this book to 4th grade and up, including adults.