Reviews provided by Syndetics
Library Journal Review
Twin sisters Jacqueline and Jillian fulfill their parents' expectations of the perfect family. Jacqueline is her mother's feminine ideal, and Jillian is the adventurous, athletic tomboy who is almost the son her father didn't get. When the siblings find an impossible staircase hidden in the bottom of their grandmother's trunk, they follow it to the Moors, a place filled with science, magic, life, death, and, most frightening, the chance to choose to be who you really are. -VERDICT McGuire revisits the world of Every Heart a Doorway to tell the story of two of its main characters. Insightful, harrowing, and wickedly funny, it will enthrall readers. (LJ 4/15/17) © Copyright 2017. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly Review
"Everything comes down to blood" in McGuire's bittersweet, heartbreaking novella. Identical twin sisters Jacqueline and Jillian Wolcott (introduced in Every Heart a Doorway) were raised to behave and obey. Only their grandmother, Gemma Lou, told them "they were clever, they were strong, they were miracles," but their time with her was short. When they're 12, the twins discover a winding staircase in a trunk; it leads to a door, to a land under a blood-red moon, and to a choice between the Master, a vampire, and Dr. Bleak, a scientist with the power to bring the dead to life. Jill stays with the Master, while Jack is apprenticed to Dr. Bleak. As years pass, Jill, under thrall to her master, longs for the day he'll grant her immortality, becoming bitter and cruel. Jack enjoys learning the ways of Dr. Bleak's power and falling in love with the beautiful, reanimated Alexis. When Jill commits a shocking act to prove her worth, Jack must choose between her sister and revenge. McGuire's exquisitely written fairy tale is about the choices that can alter the course of a life forever, lost innocence, and what it is to love and be loved. Agent: Diana Fox, Fox Literary. (June) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
School Library Journal Review
Jacqueline and Jillian's parents were more taken with the idea of having children than the reality of raising them. The Wolcotts are now too busy making sure that the identical twins are the perfect accessories to their perfect lives to see how unhappy the sisters are about the roles they are shoved into. So when they discover a trunk containing a set of stairs instead of old clothes, the siblings take flight. They find themselves in a bleak, desolate, brutal land where good girl Jacqueline can be Jack, the mad scientist's apprentice, and tomboy Jillian is Jill, the pampered, proper companion to a vampire. This stand-alone prequel to the Alex Award winner Every Heart a Doorway features the same haunting and lyrical prose. Tightly crafted chapters compare the mundane horrors of the girls' childhood with the horrors of the Moors and invite readers to meditate on what really makes a monster. Coupled with McGuire's examination of the strained relationship between the sisters in both worlds, this is a work that will deeply resonate with teen readers. -VERDICT Beautiful and devastating, this gem of a novel lingers and will garner many more fans for McGuire.-Jennifer Rothschild, Arlington Public Library, VA © Copyright 2017. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
*Starred Review* Many fairy tales begin this way: neglectful parents, a kindly grandmother, and a loss. We learn Jack and Jill's backstory after the events in Every Heart a Doorway (2016): perfectly feminine Jacqueline is bedecked in frills and lace, while Jillian runs free with the boys in the mud. One day, they find a staircase that leads to the Moors, and this seals their fates. Jacqueline becomes Jack, apprentice to resurrectionist Dr. Bleak, adopting masculine clothing and falling in love with a village girl, while Jill stays with the Master, a powerful vampire who showers her with chiffon dresses and luxurious bubble baths in exchange for her blood. One girl wishes to become undead; the other spends her time bringing people back to life. Ultimately, the twins learn that the Moors are just as unforgiving of transgressions as the world they came from, and the stakes are even higher. McGuire pairs form with function in this spare story of two sisters who yearn for love, recognition, and belonging in ways that readers will readily identify with chafing against rules both external and internal as they long to break free of the expectations of others. She taps into the horror and romance of classic fairy tales while weaving an extraordinarily modern and wise allegory of girlhood. Exquisitely well crafted, this is the rare companion novel that can stand alone.--Howerton, Erin Downey Copyright 2017 Booklist
Kirkus Book Review
This second novella in the Wayward Children series (Every Heart a Doorway, 2016) explores the origins of casually ghoulish Jack and her beautifully dressed serial-killer sister, Jill.The emotionally chilly Wolcotts regard their twin daughters as ornaments to their lifestyle, clay to be forced into molds designed to make their parents look good. Although the girls are identical, the adults decide that Jacqueline is "the pretty one," who will wear lovely dresses and shun dirt at all costs, while Jillian is "the sporty one," who will forge boldly ahead and win medals. Neither girl is really comfortable in her assigned role, and that discomfort creates a rift between them. That rift widens dangerously when the girls discover a set of stairs leading to the dimly lit land of the Moors, inhabited by dark gods, monsters, mad scientists, and ordinary villagers who somehow manage to (mostly) survive the treacherous environment. When offered a choice, the two sisters welcome the chance to switch roles. Jacqueline becomes Jack, the apprentice to mad scientist Dr. Bleak, while Jill is adopted by the local vampire lord, his pampered food source until she turns 18, at which point he will make her a vampire. Jack discovers a love for the resurrection sciences as well as for the local innkeeper's daughter. Jill loves being outrageously spoiled and pressuring the mortal locals to bow to her whims out of fear of her "father." But Jill's impatience to become immortal, a desire to prove herself to her "father," and continued resentment of her sister lead to tragedy for them both. McGuire deftly depicts how love can bloom in the most unlikely places while the lack or distortion of love can be devastating.The trappings of gothic fantasy act as an eloquent backdrop to this vivid portrayal of a painfully dysfunctional family. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.