In the final two chapters, the sisters return to where they started.
In chapters 10 and 11, Jack and Jill made their defining choices. Now we see the consequences.
Jill broke the rules and so she cannot stay. Jack broke no rules, but she is tied to Jill, both by birth and because she has learned to love. Jack and Jill have been presented to us as polar opposites. Now they are forced back into an unwilling alliance. Jack could be killed for Jill’s crime, not only because she had the audacity to save her sister, but because they look identical. Neither of them have a choice.
Jack ruminates that without Alexis, she would never have learned to care for her sister, that she would not have saved her. That may or may not be true. We have seen Jack learn lessons from others: Gemma Lou taught her to stick together, and Dr. Bleak presumably taught her the difference between harshness and cruelty. But Alexis was an equal and perhaps through her Jack learned the lesson of an equal. Alexis represents something Jill never had, something Jack and Jill were never taught to have – a close connection without any power imbalance. She represents the bond Jack and Jill could have shared, if they had been brought up differently. Nowhere else in this book do we really see equals connecting in a genuine way. So that is something special. Alexis is the one person Jack loves for herself, not due to any rules of the surrounding world or familial ties.
Then we find ourselves back at the beginning. In some ways, nothing has changed. Jack and Jill are still sisters, still pitted against each other, still uncomfortable in the house that forces them to be someone else. The difference is that now they know there is a place that will accept them for who they are. A place that could truly be called home. We end not in the same place but somewhere worse: being forced into the same miserable circumstances they started after they got a taste of what they wanted.
We know what happens next. (Unless you haven’t read Every Heart A Doorway, in which case, you probably shouldn’t be reading this. Sorry for the spoiler.) Jack and Jill are now the people Nancy meets, the people most involved in the murder mystery that takes place there. They will return to the Moors, not so different than how they left: Jill will continue prioritising herself over others, and continue to pay the consequences, while Jack will continue to protect her sister as best she can, while still remaining true to her own principles.
It’s hard to say what we should draw from this book. It is a prequel, an explanation of character more than its own story. It shows us how Jack and Jill were shaped, who shaped them, and how they shaped themselves. There’s also an emphasis on the importance of treating people as people. Children should not serve as props to ones own social standing. Villagers who serve under a vampire lord should not be discounted. But other than that, there’s not much more to learn. Jack and Jill’s story feels inevitable, because we already knew it. What is more interesting is what comes next. But that’s another book.
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