#WomenReadWomen2019 Books Features Genre It's Monday What Are You Reading Lifespan of a Reader Reading Themes Sisterhood and Female Bonds Speculative Fiction, Scifi, Fantasy Young Adult (YA) Literature

[Monday Reading] Twin Sisters Among Sticks And Bones, Mother and Daughter in A Sugar Sky, and Sisters In An Absent Dream

"Down Among The Sticks And Bones" | "Beneath The Sugar Sky" by Seanan McGuire | "In An Absent Dream" by Seanan McGuire.

IMWAYR

It's Monday! What Are You Reading

Myra here.

It’s Monday, What are You Reading is a meme hosted by Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers (new host of Monday reading: Kathryn T at Book Date). Since two of our friends, Linda from Teacher Dance and Tara from A Teaching Life have been joining this meme for quite awhile now, we thought of joining this warm and inviting community. 

I read and featured the first book in the Wayward Children series here, and I knew I just had to read the rest of the titles in the series that I could get my hands on. Luckily, we have Books 2-4 available in our library.


Down Among The Sticks And Bones

Written by Seanan McGuire
Published by Tor (2017)
ISBN: 0765392038 (ISBN13: 9780765392039). Literary Award: ALA Alex Award (2018). Borrowed from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.

This book does not continue from where the first book ended. McGuire is a crafty writer in the sense that each of the main character in the first novel seems to have their spin-off stories in the succeeding books. This second book focuses primarily on twin sisters Jacqueline and Jillian (otherwise known as Jack and Jill) and features the backstory of how one of them turned out to be a murderous psychopath.

Without going into too much detail, suffice it to say that I hated Jack and Jill’s parents – they are cardboard cutouts of cold, uncaring, civil parents who liked the idea of parenting for the sake of projecting an image that they aspire towards, instead of actually being parents to human beings who are hungry for affection, guidance, and yearning to develop into the people they are meant to be – as opposed to the little people that their parents are fashioning them into, simply because.

It was almost a boon (of sorts) to the twin sisters when they stumbled into The Moors – the fantastical place that stole their youth, drove them apart, allowed them to redefine themselves based on what felt good, what seemed right, and into what they chose to be.

If a reader was to tick off all the boxes that would make one’s book a multicultural read, this series would probably ace that checklist. LGBT, check. Body image issues, check. Mental illness, disorder, difficulties, check. Multi-racial characters, check.

Granted, it did not feel too heavy-handed, it also seemed pointed and deliberate and just so overtly self-conscious, that it turned me off somewhat. Regardless, I would have to say that this is my favourite book in the series, thus far. The dynamics between twin sisters Jack and Jill was fascinating – the choices they made to protect and alienate each other, to comfort and be cruel to one another, to nourish and wean off from each other’s presence. These beautiful young women were damaged even before they had an opportunity to begin their lives. Yet, the narrative also demonstrated how one’s choices can significantly alter and impact one’s life-path – I hate to use the word destiny as it means different things to different people. However, one can also argue that perhaps one’s ideation of choice is overrated, and that Jack and Jill’s turning out to be the way they are – was inevitable.

This had a gothic, dark, almost Victorian vibe to it – the story in a perpetual twilight just like the fantasy place that Jack and Jill were trapped in. The ending was harrowing, albeit expected; the violence inevitable but no less devastating. If you are unfamiliar with this series yet, I encourage you to find the books and read them. This is shelved in the Adult section in our libraries here in Singapore (for pretty obvious reasons), but would most likely be found in the YA section in libraries overseas.


Beneath The Sugar Sky

Written by Seanan McGuire
Published by Tor (2018)
ISBN: 0765393581 (ISBN13: 9780765393586). Literary Awards: Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Fantasy (2018). Borrowed from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.

After a universe enveloped in never-ending grey, McGuire takes her reader into the land of lollipop, chocolate and cotton candy. The story leads the reader back into Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children, allowing some degree of continuity from where the first book has left off. This time, another mystery needed solving: Rini from the psychedelic world of Confection has landed into Eleanor West’s backyard to find her mother, Sumi, who was actually one of the students killed in Book 1. Now, this is a conundrum. How could Rini have been born if Sumi already died?

Truth be told, that was never really addressed or answered to my absolute satisfaction. There were so many gaps and spaces that the author simply wanted the reader to fill in – requiring a very active suspension of disbelief – that at certain times, I wondered about the solidness of the world-building. Much is left to chance and just hanging in the air that I could not help feeling that the various universes were haphazardly and sloppily conceived and executed.

There were certain quotes that spoke to me, though, which I am excited to share here:

Here is another one:

Rini, Sumi’s daughter, was expectedly flippant (I am basing this on Sumi’s profile in Book 1), dismissive, with a devil-may-care kind of vibe to her. She seemed to enjoy a fairly-close relationship with her mother, but that was again left to the reader’s imagination to fill in. Regardless, one can not argue with the fluidity of McGuire’s storytelling.


In An Absent Dream

Written by Seanan McGuire
Published by Tor (2019)
ISBN: 0765399296 (ISBN13: 9780765399298) Borrowed from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.

Lundy had always been one of my favourite characters in this series. There was just something about her quiet wisdom, bookish nature, the tragic resigned air that she carries about her like a shawl draped around her tiny frame – that appealed to me. This book provides the backstory why she grows young and a clearer picture of the sister she loved and could not leave behind, even while she could not totally remain with her.

Among the three books, this one perhaps showed a sisterhood solidly built on a precarious foundation of affection. There is a fragility in the relationship that is also tenacious and an offshoot of volition, even while tentative and unwitting.

As is McGuire’s wont, there are female issues that are highlighted: the concept of girlhood and what it signifies, and the gradual coming into one’s self, regardless of other people’s perceptions and expectations.

Like the first two novels, this was a quick read, a good breather from the other heavy going novels I have been reading of recent. This seemed like a choppy read initially, alternating from one world to the next, never really providing details, the tragedies and deaths and cruelties glossed over – despite their being alluded to.

It was interesting to find out more about what “fair value” means amidst sacrifice, broken promises, lost youth, and the untoward consequences of indecision.


#WomenReadWomen2019: United States of America

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Myra is a Teacher Educator and a registered clinical psychologist based in Singapore. She has edited five books on rediscovering children’s literature in Asia (with a focus on the Philippines, Malaysia, India, China, Japan) as part of the proceedings for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content where she serves as the Chair of the Programme Committee for the Asian Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference. While she is an academic by day, she is a closet poet and a book hunter at heart. When she is not reading or writing about books or planning her next reads or meeting up with her book club friends, she is smashing that shuttlecock to smithereens because Badminton Is Life.

5 comments on “[Monday Reading] Twin Sisters Among Sticks And Bones, Mother and Daughter in A Sugar Sky, and Sisters In An Absent Dream

  1. lindabaie

    I will bookmark these, though I may not get to them soon, Myra. Fantasy worlds are tricky, aren’t’ they, but always intriguing to see what authors create. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve read the first book and was so-so about it. But I did want to find out more about the other characters! I’ll give the next book a try. Thanks for the review.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I keep coming across Wayward Children and I’m going to finally have to take a look at book #1. Thank you for sharing these great reviews, Myra!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Sarah Sammis

    I am current with this series and have found them useful for my own research project — the road narrative spectrum. I like your takes on books 2-4. My weekly update

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Michele Knott

    Lots of new to me books on your list this week! Some of the illustrations you featured are beautiful.

    Liked by 1 person

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