Hugo 2018: Socialization and Agency in McGuire’s “Down Among the Sticks and Bones”

[If you don’t want spoilers, this is not your doorway.]

I skipped reviewing Hugo 2017 books because I wasn’t in a science fiction or fantasy mood often last year. This year, however, I’ve felt more like diving in to read both again. I already reviewed New York: 2140 up for best novel. Recently, I read Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanen McGuire, which is the second novella in her Wayward Children series. For a quick background on the series, you can read about it at McGuire’s website.

It’s an urban fantasy story where children and teens get pulled into other realms. From a sociological and psychological perspective, I enjoyed how McGuire tracked identical twins Jacqueline and Jill’s differential socialization despite being from the same family. McGuire is scathing about parents who view their children as mere things that are extensions of themselves. These different experiences, as well as having agency, or choice, lead Jack and Jill into making different choices when they get pulled into an horrific realm with vampires and mad scientists. Also, the story defies stereotypes in some ways like the character of the mad scientist but not in other ways. I particularly liked the idea that a little girl can grow up to be a worse monster than an actual monster.

The book left me thinking about how we force sisters (and brothers) into roles in the family as if they are opposites—like the dichotomy of girls being either a “princess” or “tomboy.”  Siblings can both be smart and bookish for example. One major take-away is that individuals responsible for children should be helping those children on their journey while giving them the tools for self-actualizing as they age. (I’m currently reading Motivation and Personality by Maslow.)

I’d highly recommend this fast-paced read and following it immediately with the third book in the series, Beneath the Sugar Sky.  If you want to be creeped out, I’d suggest reading it with a blanket and a flash light. I’ve never read Seanen McGuire’s October Daye series so I think I’m going to check it out soon.

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Filed under Book Reviews, Fantasy, Sociology, Uncategorized

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