Down Among the Sticks and Bones (Wayward Children #2) by Seanan McGuire


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.

RATING: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
 YA, fantasy
Published on: July 13, 2018

“Every choice feeds every choice that comes after, whether we want those choices or no.”

I thought the first book of this series was worth 5 stars, but this one completely blew that out of the water.

The way that Seanan McGuire writes is just so captivatingeach world that she creates is so magical and the descriptions are absolutely gorgeous. This novella was just as whimsical and dark as the first, but catered to my interests so much more. The world that these characters go to is full of vampires, werewolves, raising the dead, so the whole setting was just so creepy and gritty. The descriptions were off-putting but beautiful in their own way as everything was interlaced with death and rot, such as comparing flowers to the colour of bone or bile (which doesn’t sound the most appealing I know but it works so well).

Another thing that I absolutely adored about this novella was how well it explored the impact parents have on their children. Jack and Jill’s parents had them in the first place because children were the one thing they didn’t have as part of their status, so you can imagine the joy of having the perfect set, one to treat as a boy and one to treat as a girl. It also plays into our society’s construction of gender roles and what that means for our own identities, as Jack and Jill are shown constantly trying to break through the barriers that their parents imposed on them.

“The thought that babies would become children, and children would become people, never occurred to them. 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, also never occurred to them.”

Just their family situation as a whole made me so unbearably sad but their experiences in their fantasy world made it kind of fascinating to read about. One of them completely follows the obedient submissive child role she has learned to fulfill whereas the other breaks out of it, and it broke my heart into a million pieces to see the healing process.

“Someone with sharp enough eyes might see the instant when one wounded heart begins to rot and the other starts to heal”

The reason I talk about that a lot is that it really is such a significant part of this book and I think one that really made this book stand out to me. I had to take so many breaks while reading just to internally praise Seanan McGuire for the sheer flow of her words. Even though Jack and Jill were brought up together, their expectations were very different and this book does such a great job of tracking their relationships with themselves and with each other as they go through their teenage years. It made the characters so interesting to read about and see how everything affected the choices that they made, including the parental figures they end up with in the Moors.

I just loved their character arcs so much and seeing how they developed as people, especially since they’re presented as such contrasts to each other. The side characters were just as interesting to read about, and I loved the lowkey romance that played out throughout the story. Also we finally get to find out what happened to Jack and Jill in the past that led to the events of Every Heart a Doorway, and the fact that I knew the ending before going into this didn’t make it any less exciting.

I haven’t read many novellas so I would say I’m not very used to the pacing and the condensed nature of the plot but this was everything I wanted in a story. It was full of such visual descriptions and emotional quotes that I can say with almost absolute certainty that this is going to be my favourite out of the series.


4 thoughts on “Down Among the Sticks and Bones (Wayward Children #2) by Seanan McGuire

    • caffeinatedreads says:

      I kind of felt that with the first novella in this series, the ending was kind of abrupt and I felt like the story wasn’t developed enough for my liking but this one felt very different. You kind of go into it knowing that it’s sort of a backstory for some of the characters so that problem didn’t really exist here!!


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