Zach, Poppy, and Alice are twelve years old, and have been best friends forever. Though it seems childish to other people their age, they love to play a make-it-up-as-you-go adventure game with their action figures, with a creepy porcelain doll locked in a case as the “queen” of the land. Then one day, Zach’s father throws out all his action figures, and in his anger and grief, Zach tells the others that he no longer wants to play the game. Upset by this, Poppy finds a way to send the three of them off on a new adventure, an in-real-life adventure, involving the ghost of a murdered girl and the ashes inside the “queen.”
I’m really glad I gave Holly Black another chance! I’ve not been a fan of her other books, but I really liked this one. The kids were perfectly believable for their age, even if sometimes their adventure stretched the limits of my suspension of disbelief (the actual doing things, not the ghost things – it was a ghost story, after all!). There were also some definite creepy parts, like when Tin-Shoe Jones said he refused “to talk to the blond” when none of the three kids were blond. It took them a lot longer than it took me to realize he was talking about the doll, which was right then hidden inside a backpack. Creepy! Porcelain dolls are creepy to start with, and this one…sheesh! It was a perfect spooky audio for RIP.
Another point in the book’s favor: while there was definitely some growth in all the characters, from the kids to their parents, none of it was unbelievable, or patronizing, or typical. I didn’t feel like any of it fell too hard into a trope, or that any of the characters fell into stereotype, which was good.
Only negative points were a few places that completely stretched believability, like the kids learning how to sail a boat easily and no one catching them for stealing it. That sort of thing. Other than that, though, I really enjoyed it.
The performance was great as well. I usually don’t like middle-grade audiobooks, because the adults performing them make “kid voices” that sound whiny and awful. Nick Podehl, however, did a great job with everyone’s voices, and he made the creepy parts creepy without any added creepy-voice, which I appreciated! Things are more creepy when they’re not overdone.