Down Among the Sticks and Bones
Wayward Children #2
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.
Published: June 13th 2017
Death, Murder, Blood Depiction, Parental Negligence/Emotional Child Abuse, Grooming, Fatphobic Comments (negative light), Mysophobia, Gore
“Some adventures require nothing more than a willing heart and the ability to trip over the cracks in the world.”
I’m a little mad at myself.
Coming from someone who has been putting off reading this book for literal YEARS… I’m mad that was a choice I had made. Because this book has embedded itself into my soul and will forever nestle here.
Seeing as I had listened to the audiobook, I will start there: The narrator was AMAZING. Her voice matched every beat and emotion and gave each character LIFE. She was the icing on the cake. The cherry on top. From the first sentence, she embodies the ambiance of the dark, gritty, unkind tale. I couldn’t have chose a better person for the book.
From the strict, suffocating life and home the twins lived in, to the dark and unforgiving Moors’, the vivid imagery, the mix of nightmare and fairytale was perfectly done. The whimsy and unsettlement I’d feel coincide in my gut made this read feel tangible. From vampires to werewolves, gargoyles and Drowned God worshipers… there isn’t a lack of imagination here.
“It can be easy, in the end, to forget that children are people, and that people will do what people will do, the consequences be damned.”
But, this is a story on societal expectations put on children. This is a story on the dangers of molding your children to be what YOU deem right and not letting them blossom into who they were meant to be– themselves. This is a story on gender, on how there’s no wrong way to be as you identify and in the span of 200 pages, it was done beautifully.
Now, we meet and find out how Jack and Jill’s story concludes in Every Heart a Doorway, but they had already fanned the flames of interest in me: how did they begin? How did they tumble into the Moor’s, what did they leave behind, what gave them the keys to be who we met in book one?
“The concept that perhaps biology was not destiny, and that not all little girls would be pretty princesses, and not all little boys would be brave soldiers”
I won’t lie: I was a bit biased towards Jack. However, because of said bias, I would like to talk about Jillian and how she holds a bit more space in my heart. She brought so many complex emotions out of me and I can firmly say that she is one of the most fleshed out, intricate characters I have read in a long while. Because even though you see her turn into this cruel, vicious thing and she does some irremissible actions… you understand her. You feel for her. You see her love for her sister is evident… even if it’s complicated.
A very important cog in her development is her relationship with the Master, which made me feel icky inside– it gave major grooming vibes. The predatory nature of how he handled her, of his plans for her in the future, how she never learns his name because she hasn’t earned it after all of these years… even the way she goes above and beyond to make sure she is everything he wants… She is what happens when you’ve been denied something for so long– individuality, attention, wants, desires, needs— you take it where you can get it while overlooking the warning signs.
“She had tried to make sure they knew that there were a hundred, a thousand, a million different ways to be a girl, and that all of them were valid, and that neither of them was doing anything wrong.”
But then there’s Jaqueline. Who when faced with survival, chose herself. Who tossed her dresses aside and became the Mad Scientist’ apprentice. She learned hard work, learned that she can be tom-boyish without denying her femininity. She found her space, a place to call home, friends and first love. Who loved her sister, even if she’s watched her lose her humanity. Her journey is what I related to the most.
I will always love a story with complex sister relationships, seeing how they could have turned out if not for the strict circumstances, the harsh stereotypes put upon them. I loved watching how they grew apart, but still had fierce love and resentment and complicated emotions swirling around. And that through it all, no matter what, they still clung to each other’s hand.