Come Tumbling Down | Seanan McGuire | 206 pages | Tor.com | Young Adult fiction | January 7, 2020
When Jack left Eleanor West’s School for Wayward Children she was carrying the body of her deliciously deranged sister—whom she had recently murdered in a fit of righteous justice—back to their home on the Moors.
But death in their adopted world isn’t always as permanent as it is here, and when Jack is herself carried back into the school, it becomes clear that something has happened to her. Something terrible. Something of which only the maddest of scientists could conceive. Something only her friends are equipped to help her overcome.
Eleanor West’s “No Quests” rule is about to be broken.
Come Tumbling Down is the fifth novella in the Wayward Children series by Seanan McGuire, and it’s just as fantastic as the first four. And it’s ANOTHER JACK AND JILL STORY. I was so excited to find that out when I started reading it.
For those of you who are not familiar with McGuire’s Wayward Children series, Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children was founded by Eleanor West to give…different…children a home when their parents couldn’t (or wouldn’t) understand the experiences they’d had in other worlds.
The children Eleanor sought for her school were, by and large, the sort whose parents wanted them swept away as quickly and quietly as possible. They had already disappeared once, only to come back…changed. So let them disappear again, with the proper paperwork in place. Let them go and hope that if they happened to come home a second time, they’d come back the way they’d been, and not the way that they’d become.
The doors into these other worlds come for the children “when [they’re] young enough to believe [they] know everything, and toss [them] out again as soon as [they’re] old enough to have doubts.” I’m not going to try to explain these worlds in detail, because I don’t think I can do it succinctly enough. It is enough to say that this is a fantasy series with magical doors that transport children to worlds in which they feel they really belong, and most times, they end up being heroes in those worlds. These are stories about finding oneself and about these children finding ways to be comfortable in their own bodies.
The reason why I was so excited to find out that this is another story about Jack and Jill is that Jack is the character I most relate to in the Wayward Children series. Jack is OCD and has a very hard time with dirt and germs, and while my issues with the same aren’t nearly as serious, they’re serious enough that I feel a kinship with Jack. I know exactly how she feels when she thinks:
Her mind–brilliant, traitorous, prone to devouring itself–did not stop fretting, but at least she was in control again. It was odd, to think of one’s own mind as the enemy. It wasn’t always. The tendency to obsession and irrational dread was matched by focus and attention to detail, both of which served her well in her work.
That part about her mind being the enemy? Bingo. Irrational thoughts and obsessions are just that–irrational. We know those thoughts aren’t logical or reasonable, but we still can’t help thinking them. It can be a real bummer (understatement). Jack also doesn’t like the idea of giving birth (nor do I). She finds the idea “abhorrent” and describes it as a “messy, dangerous process” that she wants nothing to do with. Jack and I are alike in so many ways.
Another thing I love about McGuire is her worldbuilding ability. She is so good at creating and describing worlds that I can imagine in detail. When I’m reading her books, I feel like I’m there in the story, a bystander watching everything go down.
And there is SO MUCH REPRESENTATION in this series; the characters are different races, one is asexual (but not aromantic), another is transgender, another is gay. But the characters never, ever feel like tropes or tokens. These aren’t stories ABOUT their queerness. The stories are about the experiences of these children, some of whom also happen to be queer. It’s so nice to see this kind of representation in young adult books.
I could go on and on and on about this series, but I’d really love for more people to read it for themselves. All of the books in the series are novellas, so they’re quick reads. I read the first four in the span of a few days. If you enjoy YA fiction/fantasy, and you haven’t read these, you’re missing out. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed.
The Wayward Children series:
1. Every Heart a Doorway
2. Down Among the Sticks and Bones
3. Beneath the Sugar Sky
4. In an Absent Dream
5. Come Tumbling Down
(Thank you to Macmillan-Tor/Forge for providing a review copy of Come Tumbling Down through NetGalley for me to read. All opinions in this review are my own.)