Three friends—Zach, Alice, and Poppy—have been through a lot in their young lives. Faced with some serious problems at home, they find refuge in each other's company. They get together most days after school to play elaborately imagined games with figurines. Or at least they did… Then Zach's dad trashes his toys because he doesn't think Zach should be playing with baby stuff. Devastated, Zach responds by throwing a huge hissy fit at home.
Zach has a much harder time expressing his emotions in public, however, and unwilling to share what has happened with Alice and Poppy, he tells them that he's simply no longer interested in playing. It's a huge deal—the end of an era, really—but Zach doesn't let on that he cares.
Alice and Poppy aren't going to let him off the hook so easily, though. Desperate to hang on to her friends (and her childhood) a little longer, Poppy tells Zach a story she knows he can't resist—a crazy (but convincing) ghost story about the Queen, a creepy doll that has long been a mysterious and compelling figure in the group's play.
Turns out Poppy has been having weird psychic dreams wherein she's learned the Queen is possessed by the soul of a dead girl named Eleanor Kerchner. Much like Poppy herself, Eleanor doesn't like living in Poppy's house, which is an unhappy place. Eleanor would much rather hang out in her (currently empty) grave, and the gang had better take her there stat—or else.
In the middle of the night, Zach, Alice, and Poppy set off to do just that. Inconveniently, though, Eleanor's grave is a few hours away in Ohio, so they have to go through a lot to get there. Along the way, the game these friends have been playing after school seems to unfold into a real-life adventure.
They take a super sketchy bus ride, but some unwanted attention from Tinshoe Jones—an unhinged passenger who won't leave them alone—forces them to abandon the bus and flee into an unfamiliar city under cover of night, where they end up camping in a park. Then they go on a hot, seemingly endless walk to East Liverpool. They even pirate a boat—and capsize it—before breaking into a library through a basement window, accidentally falling asleep (whoops), and getting caught by a librarian the next morning (double whoops).
The kids manage to escape, and then they steal some bikes and pedal to the local cemetery. All in all, Zach, Alice, and Poppy eat an impressive amount of junk food and commit several serious crimes before finally reaching the headstone of dearly departed Eleanor, who incidentally has been haunting them throughout the whole journey. What a jerk. At last they bury the doll, ingrate that she is, and with that, our tale is finished.