Title: Down Among the Sticks and Bones
Author: Seanan McGuire
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
My Rating: 3 stars
“Just because something was unfamiliar, that didn’t mean it had sharper teeth or crueler claws than the monster they already knew.”
Chester and Serena had children for all the wrong reasons. Twins! It will obviously be a boy and a girl. The babies were born, Jacqueline and Jillian, two perfect little girls. Except Chester wanted a boy. They were supposed to have the perfect nuclear family; what are they supposed to do with two girls? And so began the lives of Jack and Jill, two daughters born to two parents who only cared about their own wants and needs, and never considered what was best for their children.
The author made a point of how Jack and Jill were forced into certain gender roles and how their parents made them into what each parent wanted, and I appreciated the message- to a point. The “Jill has to be a tomboy” and “Jack has to be a princess” aspect took up too many pages. When the girls finally find some freedom, we end up focused again on what they want, but reversed. (Jill wants neatness and frills, while Jack wants hard work and meaning) As I said, the author is illustrating something important, but it took up way too much of the book.
– unique chapter titles that I absolutely loved, gorgeous illustrations
– a malleable castle that provides rooms and items as they’re needed, vampires and werewolves and gargoyles and phantom hounds
– prose that reads like a poem and has great flow
– too much time spent on who Jack & Jill want to be versus who they were made to be
“Other children were allowed to be mixed up, dirty and clean, noisy and polite, while they each had to be just one thing, no matter how hard it was, no matter how much they wanted to be something else.”
Maybe this lesson was the book’s point, but I went into it looking for something more. I wanted to get lost in the fantasy world, but I kept getting pulled out with long descriptions of how the girls were making choices based on rebelling against the choices that were made for them as they grew up. The positive of including all these details is that we get in depth looks into the personalities of the girls, and who they really are versus who everyone else wants them to be. I almost gave up, but thankfully the story got much better around the halfway mark, and the rest of the book was enjoyable to read.
I liked the author’s style of writing the same thing twice, once with narration on Jack and once with narration on Jill. The writing had a mirroring quality that really worked with the flow of the book. It highlighted how alike and how different the twins are, while making us compare them to each other, which is what their parents did their whole lives. The world that the author created was super unique, and it was fun learning about this fairytale place along with Jack and Jill.