I half succeeded at a library run the other day. I did succeed at getting the next 3 Wayward Children books, but failed to get any more of a manga series I’d grabbed the first 3 of on a whim; at some point in 2 days someone took volumes 4-12. Now I’ve gotta wait at least 2 weeks on those. At least I had Down Among the Sticks and Bones to make up for it. Volume 2 of the Wayward Children series is basically the backstory of Jack and Jill, which is strongly hinted at in book 1, but filled out in good detail here.
The twins were born to parents who clearly had no business having babies since they only did so for the social prestige and attention. They had a materially fine childhood, but socially and psychologically seriously messed up. Then of course they find their way to the Moors; they do so by climbing into a trunk left behind by their grandmother whom they believe abandoned them but who was really told to leave after having helped raise them by their parents. When they come back in a later volume, I really hope Grandma gets some vindication. Anyways, they are pretty psychologically fragile at the age of 12, which makes the Moors all the worse. When they get picked up by the Master he takes them into his home but doesn’t explain much to them about the world until Dr. Bleak bursts in demanding settlement on an agreement he has with the Master. It ends up being that each one of them will take a twin. It also seems like both want Jack, who decides to go with the Dr. because she can tell there’s something bad about the Master. She’s also the twin less likely to be freaked out by the mad scientist.
Over the next 5 years the girls drift apart, and Jill really falls under the Master’s spell. Obviously he’s a vampire who will turn her into one once she’s 18. She really wants this or thinks she does. Jack learns mad science, works hard, and falls in love with a local girl. Jill realizes that Jack has a life without her, gets jealous, and several bad things happen, leading up to them having to run away from the Moors, and they end up back in their parents’ home. The story naturally cuts off with their father realizing who the 2 intruders are.
This is just a good detailed story; it’s heartbreaking in the reality of the girls’ feelings, and scary in the fantasy-esque world they find. It’s also well told, especially in the pacing and the narrative voice. This is one of the rare times where I think the novella form actually works well because it allows for a smaller story that needs to be told to be done completely but not so that it’s too overshadowed by the main plot which started in the previous book and continues in the next one.
The one big complaint I have is the parents. Chester and Serena are terrible people in so many ways, which they need to be for the girls to be set up for how they eventually turn out, but they are so flat as characters. Why can’t there ever be good parents in stories like this? I guess that is what bothers me most: out of all the interesting things in this story, why do the parental figures have to be so stereotypical?