I have been intrigued by this series ever since I read the first. While I enjoyed Every Heart a Doorway, I was not as spellbound as I was expecting to be (I blame the hype). However, that is absolutely not the case for Down Among the Sticks and Bones because I was blown away by this sequel.
A prequel to Every Heart a Doorway, Down Among the Sticks and Bones tells the story of Jack and Jill, the mysterious twins. Jacqueline, nicknamed sometimes as Jack, was always the perfect daughter – keeping her dress clean and tediously polite. Jillian was the ‘tomboy’ who was adventurous and maybe even a bit reckless. Her father wanted a son, but he got Jillian instead. But everything seems to change when they turn twelve and find a hidden staircase that takes them into a world they never could have imagined and gives them a taste of freedom with choices they may never have wanted.
- What I immediately loved about Down Among the Sticks and Bones was the narration style. It was not only so unique, and entirely my style, but also clever and dry. Not only that, but it remains memorable in your mind and there was such a brilliant speaking quality to it. Many times you can hear things in your head, and they sound stitled, or focused on the details. But this book had almost an oral quality to its writing – which was entirely accurate to the whole fairy tale vibe.
- The second thing I loved was the difficulty of the sibling, and twin, relationship between Jacquline and Jillian. Having a sibling myself, I know too well the unsaid things that simmer into a full blown fight, or the desire to distinguish yourself against your sibling.
- On the same level of love as that, I was thoroughly impressed by McGuire’s thoughtful way in which she deconstructed ideas of gender and parenthood and expectations. In many ways, this is a tragic story of socialization and the societalization of parents who put their children into boxes – gendered boxes and cages of expectations.
- And on that note, I liked the parents. Wait, don’t get too angry, I don’t mean I liked them as people, but I thought it was great to see parents who weren’t morally grey, but who were just down right selfish in many aspects. I don’t think you can read this and think they should win any parenting awards.
- And my last minor love, is that there are illustrations here. Not even just pictures, but wonderfully detailed and whimsical illustrations.
Down Among the Sticks and Bones is detailed, atmospheric, and takes a good hard look at the fraught relationship we have with our siblings. It examines how we grow up, love, and lose. It makes us see the ways in which we treat our own family and betray the ones we love.
Do you have a favorite novella?
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