Down Among the Sticks and Bones
★★★☆☆ (I liked it.)
I love a multiverse. Down Among the Sticks and Bones is the second in the Wayward Children series that started with Every Heart a Doorway, which took the “Narnian exiles” thing in an unexpectedly murder mystery direction. Down Among the Sticks and Bones expands on the backstory of two of the characters, Jack (Jacqueline) and Jill (Jillian) from the first book, and how they ended up at the Home for Wayward Children.
Without that context, would this book be as good? I don’t know. I wouldn’t recommend reading the series out of order.
This section contains spoilers.
Two things stood out to me while I was reading that really rubbed me the wrong way.
First, Jack’s OCD. Although the words “Obsessive Compulsive Disorder” are never used, Jack exhibits a lot of classical (stereotypical) symptoms of OCD. She is intensely afraid of germs and dirt, and even wears gloves to keep her hands clean. She makes her lover bathe, gargle, brush her teeth, etc. before any romantic escapades. Which… fine. Germophobic neat freaks are kind of stereotypical OCD characters, but those symptoms do exist.
What bothered me about Jack’s OCD was the implication that her parents made her that way. As a child, her mother admonished her to never let her frilly dresses get dirty. OK, so she might’ve grown up to be a neat freak, a little neurotic about cleanliness, but Jack seems to have full-blown OCD, which I don’t think you can “catch” from your parents like that.
Second, Alexis. (Spoilers follow.) Alexis is a beautiful fat queer woman in a happy relationship with Jack. Everyone is OK with this. So of course, she gets murdered.
Alexis isn’t murdered because she’s queer, or but she is murdered because she’s in a relationship with a woman. If Jack were a boy, she would’ve been murdered just the same, but the whole thing smacked of dead lesbians, and that was a let-down. Especially since Alexis probably can’t be resurrected (again). That cost the book a couple of stars.
Judging a Book by Its Cover
I don’t know how I feel about the cover. It does exactly what it needs to, setting the scene on the Moors, with the treasure chest cracking open, but it doesn’t wow me. It’s serviceable, but I wouldn’t buy a print of it for my wall.
I enjoyed reading Down Among the Sticks and Bones, but the murder really knocked the wind out of me. I knew it couldn’t have a happy ending – after all, Jack and Jill have to be back in our world by the start of Every Heart a Doorway – but it didn’t have to end like that.