Rated Reads

Down Among the Sticks and Bones (Wayward Children, book 2)

by Seanan McGuire

Rated: Moderate

Twin sisters Jack and Jill were sent right to Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children when they came back “home” from their five-year stay in the dark land of the Moors. In Every Heart a Doorway, their story post-fantastical world intertwines with those of other children who had to return, unwillingly, from their respective forays into strange lands via secret doors.

In this new book by Seanan McGuire, their stories before being sent off to this unique boarding school are told. Jacqueline and Jillian are raised by parents who don’t really care to be parents; they simply had children to be able to present them to society. Their parents decided what each would be: Jacqueline the pretty girly one, adorned in frilly dresses and told not to get dirty; Jillian the tomboy, dressed in jeans and tennis shoes, placed in sports. But one day, when they’re 12, they discover a hidden door and end up in the Moors, where vampires and werewolves and other monsters reign. They are picked up by the Master, who wants to keep both but has made a deal with the “mad scientist” who lives in the windmill, and Jill goes one way while Jack goes another. They learn to get by in this new place and even come to appreciate their lives and find themselves, in a sense, as they finally are given the opportunity to make choices for themselves. But the choices they make have much more dire consequences in the land of the Moors, and even as much as each wants to stay, consequences — and finally learning what love is — end up forcing them to leave.

The world of Wayward Children is one where the lands of fairy tales exist, where children from our world really do find secret doorways that open up just once when the time is right, where those worlds have varying sets of rules, all very serious and never the light-hearted “Disney-fied” versions of those tales. McGuire uses these places to explore morality and human nature and what selfishness and bad choices can do. This story is a reminder that girls shouldn’t be forced into one or two molds, that they should have many options available to them, to guide their own destinies, and that humans can be just as disturbing as monsters.

Rated: Moderate. There’s no offensive language. Sexual content includes a romantic relationship between two teen girls, with some kissing mentioned and more involvement implied. There’s a potential implication of a relationship (but it’s murky) between a teen girl and a vampire. Violence is mostly a murder that involves mentions of blood and a body being mutilated in some way with a knife. There are mentions of other killings, mostly of children, just in passing.

— Reviewed by Cathy Carmode Lim

Cathy Carmode Lim has been reviewing books for newspapers for about 20 years, two of which she was a book page editor. She founded Rated Reads in January 2008.

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  • Down Among the Sticks and Bones (Wayward Children, book 2)
  • by Seanan McGuire
  • Rated: Moderate
  • Genre: Fiction
  • Reviewer: