Poppy, Zach and Alice have been playing the game for years. With actions figures, dolls, and toys of their own creation the three friends have been telling an ever-expanding fantasy story. And ruling over them all is the Great Queen, a bone-china doll in Polly's house no one is allowed to touch. But now the three are in middle school, and Zach's father wants him to spend more time with his guy friends and playing basketball. Before the game came can end, Polly insist the Great Queen has come to her in a dream, and the three must head out on a final quest.
This was a perfect mix of realistic fiction and a tiny bit of horror. It's never clear if, in fact, the Queen really is speaking to the children. Is she really moving around in the night? Is she really sending them dreams? Do other people really see her as a person? It's not clear. It might be all pretend. Or something creepy might be going on. You get to decide. So it's a little dark and spooky, but not too spooky. It can be as spooky as you make it.
Each of the three kids are dealing with their own private family issue. Alice's parents are dead, something she doesn't talk about very much, and her grandmother is so over protective it's hard for Alice to do the things that she loves. Alice envies Polly, whose parents are hardly ever around and aren't very involved in Polly's life. Polly, however, feels this parental lack of interest in what she does. Her parents can't even come and get her after she's disappeared. And Zach is dealing with his father returning to his life, after growing up with just him and his mom. Zach resents his father suddenly trying to act like a father and tell him what to do. The nerve of this man saying he knows what's best of Zach, when he's been gone for years. Despite their years-long friendship, the three can't tell each other what's really happening.
When Zach's father throws away Zach's characters, he can't bring himself to tell Polly and Alice. Instead he just says he doesn't want to play anymore, that it's a baby game and they're too grown up for it. Polly, always the leader, then tells Zach and Alice that the bone-china doll has appeared in her dreams and told her a terrible story. Zach and Alice are both skeptical, but use to following Polly, agree to go along.
Things, of course, do not go as planned. Strange things happen, and ultimately, the three end up revealing secrets to each other they have been keeping.
Toward the end, the three are sleeping in a library (where they go to try and figure out the location of the graveyard they're trying to find) and are discovered by the librarian. The librarian with pink hair and green glasses. Thanks, Holly Black. Thanks for sending the kids to the library when they need to figure something out and having a librarian who isn't a 80-year old women with a bun and orthopedic shoes. Thank you.
Great, slightly creepy middle school read.