• The Good: A quest into a magical underworld; Friends who accept you for who you are
  • The Bad: Returning to an old world means not exploring a new one
  • The Literary: An imaginative universe to rival Narnia

In the first book of the series, Jack (Jacqueline) and her sister Jill found their door to from Eleanor West’s School for Wayward Children back to their home on the Moors immediately after Jack murdered Jill to protect her friends. Now, in the fifth installment of the Wayward Children series, Jack returns in Jill’s body, in desperate need of her friends’ help.

I love these books. Have you ever desperately wanted to find your very own Wonderland or Hogwarts? Every child living in Eleanor West’s School for Wayward Children has found theirs, but somehow lost their way and ended up back in our world, the real world, and they can’t cope. Their parents don’t recognize them anymore. But Eleanor understands, preparing her students for the day their door reappears and they can return to the magical world they left behind.

There is something so special about the diversity of these books that do what scifi and fantasy do best. They normalize characters who live in worlds made of candy, or skeletons, or mad scientists and vampires in a way that promotes acceptance of who we are right now. This book in particular focuses on finding friends who accept you for who you are, with characters who are trans, overweight, OCD, disabled, and queer.

This installment returns to a world already visited in a previous book—the Moors, an underworld of sorts, in which Jack apprentices with a mad scientist, and Jill becomes a daughter of a vampire. In one sense, I enjoy the extended world-building. The Moors is based on a balance of opposing opposites, monster versus monster. But going back means not exploring a new world, nor seeing someone new get to find their very own special world that turns them into who they were always meant to be.

Jack rounds up the gang before heading back to the Moors, so we get to spend more time with Christopher, Cade, Cora, and Sumi. Sumi is the star of the show, continuing to surprise her friends with the quirky nonsense logic she learned in her world of confection, where she hopes to return and one day die so the gummy worms can eat her body.

I will absolutely pick up the next book in the Wayward children series, but I hope we find a new world next time. Highly recommended for fans of fantasy still looking for their rabbit hole!