Series: Wayward Children #1
Published by Tor on April 5th, 2016
Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children
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.
This was absolutely fantastic. It was a million times better than I ever expected and completely blew me away. I’m not sure why I thought I didn’t want to read it – past Bekka was incredibly stupid. Every Heart a Doorway was beautiful, haunting, lovely and filled me with a yawning, cavernous sense of longing that I’m sure can only be filled if I ever find my own door.
What I think I’m most amazed by is the author’s gift of world building. I mean, she had less than 200 pages to work with here, and somehow managed to cram in infinite worlds. Millions of wayward children, millions of doorways and infinite worlds to which they lead. I think it’s safe to say we’ve all read or at least watched a portal fantasy; Alice in Wonderland is a Disney staple. Of course a lot of us were raised on Narnia. The stories always end when the kids reach home, though. But I’ve always wondered what it’s like after that. You don’t go to Wonderland or Narnia and come back unchanged. Seanan McGuire answered these questions in such a perfect and unexpected way. The children who come back from these worlds are changed and they have to live with that and deal with that and heal from that.
One thing I had never thought of before, and that I thought made this book all the more beautiful, is that the worlds beyond the doors were considered home. Each world was perfect for the child entering it and it truly was a homecoming when they found their door. So there was this huge feeling of homesickness permeating every page. It made it so much more heartbreaking knowing that the chances of these kids actually going home were so slim. Most of those kids would live out their lives longing to go home but stuck on Earth. Eventually the memories would fade and the world they called home would just be remembered as a dream. This filled me with so much sadness, like I had gone through my own door, too, and I felt exactly how Nancy, Jack, Jill, Kade, all of them felt.
I also loved the effortless diversity on every page. I think cis, abled, white, etc people make such a big deal out of including diverse characters, like it’s just so hard, but Seanan McGuire shows us that it really is as simple as “I’m asexual, I don’t have those feelings,” and “They thought they had a princess, and kicked him out when they figured out he was really a prince.” This is the first time I ever experienced aceness explicitly stated on the page and I was so excited to get to the revealing moment. At first I was worried, thinking that maybe the Halls of the Dead that Nancy visited made her that way, but she made it clear that she had always been asexual, before Traveling. She also made it clear that asexual and aromantic were two different things. And no, it didn’t stop the story in its tracks or make things awkward. It was perfect. Kade’s being trans was also addressed clearly and explicitly. The only thing I wish had been different was that one bit of violent transphobia at the end. A character purposely hurts Kade by saying he’s pretending to be something he’s not. While the book and the characters condemn that behavior, I just wish it wouldn’t have been included at all. Imagine being a trans person and reading this amazing book, minding your own business, and being struck in the face with that line.
I did figure out the mystery quite quickly, but I don’t fault the book for that. Figuring out the Who Done It is kind of my thing. Figuring out why the killer did what they did – that kept me turning the pages. I thought the reveal and the ending were absolutely perfect. I cried, a lot. And spent the next hour and a half after finishing, tossing and turning in bed, unable to stop thinking about it.
Honestly, the only thing I wish I could change about this book (aside from that one line mentioned earlier) is its length. This is truly a novella, coming in at 173 pages it. It easily, easily could have been fleshed out into a full length book. There are so many worlds and so many characters, and I loved every single one of them. I want an infinite amount of pages to spend with these characters, getting to know them even better, and going through their doors with them. I want to find out what happens next to Nancy, Jack, Jill, Kade and Christopher. I can’t wait for the sequel/companion, but it’s just not the same. That said, Every Heart a Doorway is not on my list of forever favorites and will absolutely be reread countless times in my future.