DOWN AMONG THE STICKS AND BONES
SERIES: Wayward Children, #2
REPRESENTATION: FF relationship
GENRES/ SUBJECTS: YA Fantasy
Twin 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.
Down Among the Sticks and Bones is the second in the Wayward Children series. I actually read this book last, and as it’s a prequel to the first book (Every Heart a Doorway), it can be read entirely as a stand-alone.
I think this story has the most depth of the three books. It’s far more of a character study than a plot-driven adventure. There is a lot of consideration and commentary on gender identity, gender roles and social pressures.
Quite a lot of the story happens in the normal world, as we watch Jacqueline and Jillian grow up, being shaped by their controlling parents into people neither of them want to be. Once the twins go through into the gothic-horror, B-movie-esque land of The Moors, the very traits that were drilled into them are what drive to make mistakes and eventually force them apart.
My favourite of the two characters was Jack. At the start of the book she’s been shoehorned into the girly, long haired, dress-wearing sister. She’s taught to be quiet, obedient and ladylike. This fosters a skill at observation and a desire to know more. I really enjoyed seeing how she changed and evolved over the course of the story into a confident, skilled Laboratory Assistant for Doctor Bleak. The Master, Jills ally-captor, was suitably creepy and threatening.
I loved the atmosphere in this book.
That’s probably its greatest strength.
The cover has that grey, foggy — almost oppressive — fuzzy feeling you get when you watch old 60s horror movies. And this translated really well into the prose. The whole thing felt very claustrophobic, very small-town-small-minded, living-under-cloak-of-terror, distrust of outsiders type of thing. And you could see by the end of the story how this oppressive society, with a constant influx of visiting children who are never to the trusted, would lead to the events which climax the story.
Of all three books so far released in the Wayward Children series I think Down Among the Sticks and Bones is my favourite. Partially, that’s probably to do with the fact that there are pretty heavily Dracula and Frankenstein allusions in this book — and I make no bones about the fact that those are pretty much my original fandoms. That aside, I do actually think it is also the strongest book. As I said, it can be a stand-alone, a prequel or just to give you more insight into Jack and Jill after you’ve read Every Heart a Doorway.