Beetle & the Hollowbones by Aliza Layne

Beetle & the Hollowbones


Goodreads: Beetle and the Hollowbones
Series: None
Source: Library
Published: 2020


Beetle longs more than anything to be a sorcerer, but her grandmother keeps her practicing goblin magic. So Beetle is excited when her old friend Kat comes back to town after attending a school for sorcery. But Kat’s aunt has plans to tear down the local mall–the place where Beetle’s best friend Blob Ghost is tied to for eternity. Now Beetle and Kat have three days to figure out how to release Blob Ghost before they are destroyed forever.

Star Divider


Beetle & the Hollowbones is a beautifully-drawn graphic novel that evokes a spooky, autumnal feeling even as it tells a feel-good story about finding one’s self and standing by one’s friends. The deep orange and blue hues draw readers into Beetle’s Halloween-esque world, a world where goblins, skeletons, and ghosts all mingle–sometimes doing things as normal as going to the mall, sometimes fighting each other with magic for survival. Readers who enjoy middle-grade fantasy comics will love Beetle & the Hollowbones.

The juxtaposition between the everyday and the macabre is part of what makes this story so unique. Our heroine Beetle is a goblin who wants to perform sorcery, but she can’t attend school and her grandmother is committed to teaching her goblin magic instead. Beetle spends most of days hanging out at the local mall, where her friend Blob Ghost lives. They do things any teenager would do, window shopping, getting snacks, and so on–but always with a slightly spooky twist that makes it fun to see what will happen to Beetle and Blob Ghost next. It is only when Blob Ghost’s existence is threatened by the demolition of the mall that Beetle and her friends have to band together to figure out what is keeping Blob Ghost from leaving.

The actual plot of the book is somewhat simple. Even the reasons for the destruction of the mall remain nebulous–maybe something to do with family heritage, maybe a family secret that must remain hidden. It doesn’t really matter. What matters is that Blob Ghost is in danger and Beetle would do anything to help her cute, shape-shifting friend. Their relationship lies at the heart of the story, along with Beetle’s friendship and budding romance with longtime friend Kat–an undead skeleton. They will have to work past self-doubt, jealousy, crush drama, and teenage angst to solve the problem. Their journey is both engaging and uplifting. I think readers will fall in love with all three of our heroes.

Beetle & the Hollowbones is an enchanting middle-grade novel that is darkly atmospheric but more charming than scary. Readers who like autumn and all things Halloween will want to pick this one up, but so will readers who enjoy character-driven stories with lovable protagonists and a feel-good ending. Let’s hope there is a sequel to come!

5 stars

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