Review: Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire

Summary

Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children
No Solicitations
No Visitors
No Quests

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.

My thoughts

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is my favorite children’s classic and I can’t get enough of retellings playing with the same idea of falling into strange fantasy worlds. Seanan McGuire took this idea to a whole new level and wrote a story about finding and accepting yourself and others, and the daily struggles with not being accepted as the person you want to be, woven into a macabre little murder mystery that easily became a new favorite of mine.

The world is unforgiving and cruel to those it judges as even the slightest bit outside the norm.

If there is one thing you can say about Every Heart a Doorway, it is that it is rich in diversity. It’s not so much the inclusion of all these minorities that makes this the great book that it is though, but the story Seanan McGuire constructed around those. Seanan McGuire shows the struggles of not being accepted for who you are in a unique way like I haven’t seen before in any other book. This is a tragically sad story where children only find their happiness in other places not of this world, places no one believes to actually exist. Their time of happiness and just being themselves is written off as delusions and something they need to be cured of. And with that, McGuire hits home and describes nothing else but something many deal with every day. I like how Every Heart a Doorway mixes that sadness with hope, hope of one day finding that place where you’ll be accepted as the person you really are.
On top of that Seanan McGuire conveys that it’s important to stick together and show understanding, to care for one another when everyone else considers you as outsiders.

Great idea and important message aside, it’s also the writing that was exactly my thing. Every Heart a Doorway comes with the same style that faery tales are typically written and I thought it couldn’t be more fitting for this specific book. And as an overall sad and gloomy story, it was still able to make me laugh at times. Especially the murders happening at the home came with some dark humor right up my alley. Every Heart a Doorway is the perfect blend of serious issues and morbid fun, and while the murder mystery wasn’t too eventful or even hard to crack, it still gave the story the perfect background to tell us more about each of the kids’ experiences without turning into repetitive storytelling inside the story.

I’m still amazed how much Seanan McGuire is able to pack into such short stories without it getting dense but she once again delivered an amazing read with characters that I adore. I can’t wait to read more stories set in this world and hear more about the characters’ different experiences, with hopefully happy outcomes, ones they truly deserve.

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