Title: Every Heart a Doorway
Author: Seanan McGuire
Page Count: 173 pages
Rating: 5 / 5 ✨✨✨✨✨
Children have always disappeared under the right conditions; slipping through the shadows under a bed or at the back of a wardrobe, tumbling down rabbit holes and into old wells, and emerging somewhere… else.
But magical lands have little need for used-up miracle children.
Nancy tumbled once, but now she’s back. The things she’s experienced… they change a person. The children under Miss West’s care understand all too well. And each of them is seeking a way back to their own fantasy world.
But Nancy’s arrival marks a change at the Home. There’s a darkness just around each corner, and when tragedy strikes, it’s up to Nancy and her new-found schoolmates to get to the heart of the matter.
No matter the cost.
“You’re nobody’s rainbow. You’re nobody’s princess. You’re nobody’s doorway but your own, and the only one who gets to tell you how your story ends is you.”
If there is any book recommendation you take from knowing me or from reading my blog, please let it be this book & this series as a whole. I can’t fully express what it means to me, but I am damn sure going to try for the sake of this review! Every Heart a Doorway is the first book in the Wayward Children series, which currently consists of 5 books (but has recently announced a 6th!). It’s hard to categorize these books by genre, so I won’t. I will say that you should read them, whether you’re a fan of horror, sci-fi, fantasy, or something else – they’re incredible.
We’re all familiar with ‘portal worlds’, right? Think Narnia or Alice in Wonderland – places that are accessible only via a specific portal that opens and allows the protagonist to travel through it. Now imagine our real world existing alongside these portal worlds, where children are often lost to them to live out grand adventures and risk everything. And then imagine our real world, where some of these children come back. In the same way that the horror genre’s beloved final girls are changed irrevocably by their experiences, so too are the children coming back from these worlds. For some, who had found places they belonged for the first time in their lives through these travels, the return can be an extremely unpleasant experience.
Enter Miss Eleanor West, and her school for these Wayward children. Offering a safe place where their travels are discussed via group therapy sessions rather than the homes where they’ve been met with disbelief and disapproving looks, many of these children find solace here, and are given space to readjust after their adventures in these other places. But what happens when that safe haven is threatened?
This book technically qualifies as a novella, as does every other book in the series. While short, the books are incredibly thought provoking, offering some really pristine moments of wisdom that are applicable both in these fantastic stories, as well as in our real life society today.
One of my favorite parts about these books is the incredibly diverse representation that we see in the characters. One of the main themes of the series is individuality, and the understanding that sometimes the roles you’re born into or that are expected from you, aren’t the roles where you’re going to thrive. The children in Eleanor’s home all found other worlds where they grew as people, and sometimes even lived full lives – even if just a matter of months had passed in the real world. Where these kids struggled under societal pressures and obligations in the real world, they found freedom and truth in their portal lands – and, like with people in our society, our personal truths are specific to each of us.
I don’t want to spoil too much, but I believe it’s important to convey how extensive the representation here is. There is incredible diversity in the sexualities, the races, and the genders of all of our characters, which is such a pleasure to read – it’s much more like the real world than some extremely white-focused books that feel more like a Sweet Valley High rerun than a believable story.
Our main protagonist is an asexual girl who struggles with her return from the dark, still Halls of the Dead; her roommate is a tree climbing, colorful, energetic bisexual Japanese girl from a magical sugar land that exists in a state of constant, whimsical, nonsensical flux. The number of ace characters in modern literature is still woefully limited, and neither asexuality nor aromanticism are given enough of a focus to make them as well-known orientations as some others that readers may be more familiar with, so having these topics discussed, explained, and talked about in a way that fits in with the plot and story was great. Other characters include a trans boy that discovers himself during his time in his portal world, and the list of great characters just keeps growing.
I’m going to review each of the books in the series individually at some point on my blog, but honestly, I recommend the series as a whole. It’s well-written, and each book expands upon the first, creating a more robust world and characters each time you visit Seanan McGuire’s writing. This is my most recommended book and book series for a reason: it’s wonderful!
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