Well friends, my expectations for this book were sky high & 2 stars is actually being generous. Considering it took me a whole month of slogging through 10 pages at a time of this 176 page book, I think 2 stars is being very generous indeed.
McGuire largely missed the mark with her third installment of the Wayward Children series. In fact, the only part of this I thoroughly enjoyed was her writing style. She is whimsical & straightforward in the same breath, and it really serves the offbeat tone of this series well.
Otherwise, this book is a bit of a disaster for me.
It begins with the introduction of a new main character, Cora. The thing I know about Cora is that she is very fixated on how other people think of her as fat. Now, I don't want to be misunderstood here, so please pause with the pitchforks at least until I finish my point.
This series has thus far used a very small amount page space to tackle some very prominent & important issues with grace & clarity. Obesity & the abuse that can be experienced because of it absolutely fall under that umbrella of importance. However, Cora's allusions & inner monologue about being only seen as "the fat girl" came up so often that I began to feel beaten over the head with the message.
Most of us know what it's like to get stuck in a mental loop about our imperfections, and so in that singular way Cora is relatable. But as a main character being introduced two books after the group has been established, it felt as though this was the only reason I was given to really care about Cora.
Her personality is sort of flat, and I found her quips & interactions with other characters borderline annoying. She's nowhere near as compelling as the characters we've been introduced to in the previous books, so the overall lack of connection was a bit of a let down.
By the end of the book there's not any real unique & hard hitting conclusion about Cora overcoming how others view her in favor of realizing her personal worth, which is what I was expecting after all the page space that was dedicated to acknowledging the problem.
Again, I want to emphasize that my issue is not with the topic itself, but more with how it was presented in context of this particular character.
To continue on the subject of characters, those familiar faces from the past two books may as well have not even shown up for this adventure. Kade's southern charm & happy go lucky sense of justice are reduced to a lackluster minimum, Christopher's clever sarcasm is all but gone, and Sumi's abundant & nonsensical energy is completely absent.
For a series with such consistently strong & diverse characters, this is the last thing I expected to be disappointed in.
Now we come to the plot. I just... did not care about it at all? I won't tell you that the plots from the first two books are most distinctive stories I've ever read, because they aren't. But I was captivated by them, and I was engaged with the other aspects of the series enough that the combination is what made it special.
Unfortunately the plot of Beneath the Sugar Sky felt like a tangled & directionless mess for much of the time. It's worth noting that much of the story centralizes around adhering to a world that employs "Nonsense" rules, and so to a degree it makes sense that nothing makes sense. However, I spent a lot of time thinking "Is this ever going to go somewhere interesting?
Needless to say, I'm distressed over posting a negative review for this book, because I really really really really wanted it to be amazing. But it isn't. It just isn't.
The nature of this series is to tell smaller stories that are mostly encompassed within each book. The characters overlap & books should be read in order, but the stories aren't necessarily told in sequentially. Because of this, I will likely read the next book & pray that it's on par with Every Heart a Doorway and Down Among the Sticks and Bones.