Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire

Content Warnings: Blood, Murder, Similarities to Stockholm Syndrome

SynopsisTwin sisters Jack and Jill were seventeen when they found their way home and were packed off to Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children.

This is the story of what happened first…

Jacqueline was her mother’s perfect daughter—polite and quiet, always dressed as a princess. If her mother was sometimes a little strict, it’s because crafting the perfect daughter takes discipline.

Jillian was her father’s perfect daughter—adventurous, thrill-seeking, and a bit of a tom-boy. He really would have preferred a son, but you work with what you've got.

They were five when they learned that grown-ups can’t be trusted.

They were twelve when they walked down the impossible staircase and discovered that the pretense of love can never be enough to prepare you a life filled with magic in a land filled with mad scientists and death and choices.

Review:  The Wayward Children series is an excellent example of a series of short books that can pack a wild punch. I really enjoyed Every Heart a Doorway when I read it last year, so I was stoked to read Down Among the Sticks and Bones. Especially when I found out this book starred the twins, Jack and Jill. I loved seeing how Jack and Jill were raised and I saw a number of similarities with my own upbringing. That gave me chills. Seanan does some interesting things with gender roles and identity in this book. Jack was the more feminine daughter who wore dresses and follows her mother's prodding, and Jill was the opposite. Jill played in the dirt, hung out with boys, and played sports with her father's encouragement. This upbringing also starts to pull the girls apart. Jack wants to be more carefree and try new things. Jill wants to be a princess and be revered. I will say, people who have gender dysphoria might struggle with this book. The first part of this book focuses on how the parents have shaped the lives of Jack and Jill. While this is true to an extent, it felt like the book was saying that the parents desire was the only thing that mattered and the feelings of the children do not matter. It's hard to explain, but that's the best I've got. It hit a few nerves with me, but that could have just been a personal thing. Overall, getting a closer look at Jack and Jill was great and it helped me get a better understanding of the two girls.

In the way of story, Down Among the Sticks and Bones is quite dark. The portal world the twins go to is called the Moors, and it's filled with monsters. The twins go into this world together, but events break them apart and they have to grow within their own stories. This is an example of how great of a storyteller Seanan is. She was able to craft 2 different stories in a single book less than 200 pages. Seeing Jack and Jill both explore new parts of themselves was incredible. There was even a bit of romance which was a nice break in the dark atmosphere of the Moors.  

This was an excellent addition to the Wayward Children series. I would highly recommend these books.

5 howls