#1 in the Wayward Children series by Seanan McGuire
Many a fantasy, from classics to childhood first attempts, feature a child or group of children leaving their world behind for another. But like thinking beyond happy endings, it isn’t obvious to consider what might happen to them after. Some stories do tell the readers conclusively, and others cover only what we expect: the adventure. What happens to the children who leave or are kicked out–and wish desperately to return?
If they’re lucky, they end up at Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children. Where their parents think they’re learning how to “get better” and reintegrate into the world they all left. Where they actually find others who understand, even if all of the worlds they found were different.
There is nothing about this book that doesn’t appeal to me. It’s weird, more than a little dark, and twists stories I cut my teeth on. Reading it felt simultaneously new and familiar. Besides, who can say no to an Outcasts Band Together story?
My favourite thing about Every Heart a Doorway is that the characters aren’t easily recognisable existing ones like Wendy or Alice. McGuire crafted a number of fascinating original worlds, like the main character Nancy’s land of the dead. She had to stand absolutely statue still, colours were reserved for those above her in status, and one could subsist on a sip of pomegranate juice once a rare while. Now she refuses to wear colours, eats so little that it worries her parents, and dislikes this fast-moving world.
In fact, many of the characters and their worlds are expanded upon, with their histories given. Even the Mean Girl who is a bit of a Straw Man to bolster the rather excellent representation. Nancy herself is asexual, while another character is transgender. It’s all handled with subtlety without skirting around actual discussion.
Everything is astoundingly well-crafted. The atmosphere is dark and almost gothic, but there’s also plenty of room for humour. The mystery is tragic, compelling, and drives the action while still allowing for character development and world-building in a very short book.