The Art of Belonging – a review of Down Among The Sticks And Bones by Seanan McGuire

Jaqueline and Jill were raised as the poster children of parents who wanted nothing more than to have kids to show off. Yet they envy each other over lives they want to have. Jill, raised to be a tomboy yet yearning for more feminine touches in her life. Jack, wishing to use her intelligence instead of her beauty. Soon after they both turn twelve they discover a secret in the attic, stairs down to a world that will accept them for who they want to be and transform them forever.

I was heavily entertained by the writing style and how reminiscent it was of children’s classic literature. I don’t remember how strongly it held this style in the first book, but the second book had it from the get go and hooked me instantly. In spite of having a far more adult audience and mature settings and themes, it made the story as a whole feel far more vivid, engaging, and emotionally attachable.

The theme was so simple and so effective, and I realised that was the root of this series. Belonging. It took a whole book for me to get it, the art of teens finding a space they belong and finding themselves when the people around them don’t know their true selves. I certainly hope to see this theme in further become emotional to hear them.

Let’s talk about the characters to attach to. Jack and Jill. Now, we were introduced to them and their terrifying ways before this prequel (weird statement, I know) and I never thought much about them upon my first dive. But now I care for both of them so deeply as they struggled at home with identity and found peace in a morbid place. And even though their truest homes were dark, I was so glad that they found them.

My only complaint was that I wanted more. That time skip was so terribly disappointing, because I wanted to see Jack and Jill grow. I wanted to see them learn lessons and transform. We had a beautiful before and an extravagant after, but a missing middle. I severely want to know what happened, it would have made such a great story. Such a great development as two twins become totally twisted in a gothic world, becoming the bride of a vampire and an assistant to one reminiscent of Frankenstein. I would read that for hours!

Thus I had to deduct half a star from this otherwise masterpiece.

Down Among the Sticks and Bones gets a score of 4.5/5. I’m so sad to be robbed of such beauty, I must write more!

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