Review:  Down Among the Sticks and Bones

Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book serves as a prequel to Every Heart a Doorway but should definitely be read after that book in order not to spoil any plot points. The book elicits an incredible amount of emotion and I believe this is due, at least in part, to the fact that the narrative style is that of a children’s book or middle grade book – like the first Harry Potter book or the Chronicles of Narnia. This narrative style is juxtaposed with YA-level content and I think it produces the effect taking us back to those books we read (or had read to us) when we were young while containing the harsher, more cynical tone that we are ready for as adults.

As a parent, this book hits differently. It’s a trope for children’s books to have uncaring or bad parents or adults (eg Matilda), but in this book the the parents aren’t inexplicably bad in the way they often are in kids books (why would Potter’s aunt/uncle have him live under the stairs and treat him mostly sub-human?). McGuire knows her readers are teens and/or adults. She can be more honest about the flaws of the parents and that makes it all the more heart-breaking as a parent. Many of us (not all, of course) wonder (to varying levels) if we’re helping or hurting those in our charge. We (most of us) are trying our best, but to what effect?

If I have one recommendation, it’s to read this novella as soon as possible after reading Every Heart a Doorway. It’s not that I completely forgot the plot, but I think this story would hit a LOT harder right after that one.

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