Title: Every Heart a Doorway
Author: Seanan McGuire
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult, Mystery
My Rating: 3 stars
“Nobody gets to tell me how my story ends but me.”
When children in storybooks find a secret door/hole in a tree/etc and find themselves in a magical world for a time, we never get to see what happens after. After they return, when they are reunited with their parents and have to face the real world again. In Every Heart a Doorway, we get to see how they cope with this change. There is a really diverse cast of characters, and lots of ideas about how these different magical worlds operate. The different types of worlds and how they all had basic traits and could be separated by these traits was in interesting concept, and I really wanted to see more of these unique places.
– an impossible staircase in the bottom of a trunk, outcasts bonding over hot chocolate, a dancing skeleton wrapped in rainbows
– super diverse cast of characters
– short enough to be read in one sitting
– It wasn’t clear enough when the narrator changed. I was halfway through chapter 9 before I realized the chapter was being told from Eleanor’s perspective and not Nancy’s, for example. (It also frequently changes mid-chapter)
– The adults don’t act like adults
– a pretty obvious mystery, no character depth, felt like the story was missing elements
The author didn’t shy away from the gruesome, and the actual murders/what was left behind after the murders wasn’t lightened or skimmed over. These kids weren’t being treated like children in their hidden door worlds, they had to deal with come crazy stuff, so they aren’t immediately squeamish with they find someone that’s been murdered and had their hands chopped off. I also liked that there was a bit of magic overlapping into the real world, including Christopher’s bone flute and Nancy’s unreal ability to hold hear breath, although I would have liked for this to be expanded upon. (How much is actually real? How much magic translates into the real world?) The length of the story made it so it could be read in one sitting, but this also left a lot to be wanted. We didn’t get to know the characters as well as I would have liked, and I felt like there was so much missed potential- especially with such a promising premise. I couldn’t connect with the characters like I wanted to, and that really hurt the story overall.
“If we call [dead student’s] parents, if we tell them what happened, that’s it, we’re done. Anyone who’s under eighteen gets taken home by their loving parents. Half of you will be on antipsychotic drugs you don’t need before the end of the year, but hey, at least you’ll have someone to remind you to eat while you’re busy contemplating the walls. The rest of us will be out on the streets. No high school degrees, no way of coping with this world, which doesn’t want us back.”
I read a review that mentioned one of the major negatives was the characters not taking enough precautions/involving the police when people were getting murdered. I figured I could get past this, after all the story is fantasy and it could be a situation where calling the police would be pointless because “normal” people wouldn’t understand the fantastical side of things. (Plus, stories set in a fantasy world don’t generally have police to call.) But no, this all occurred in the “real” world, and I ended up not being able to explain away the internal way everything was handled enough to make it stop annoying me.
There was half a chapter about hiding the murders for the good of the school, and this is encouraged by one of the adults in the story! “Make her go away, darlings. Put her someplace where I’ll never find her, not if I look for a thousand years. We’ll have a memorial service. We’ll honor her as best we can. But I can’t endanger us all because of one lost life.” A teacher literally has some of the students get rid of the body. They’re also encouraged to walk around in groups, which would be fine if they had any way of protecting themselves, but in this situation they were sitting ducks.
Unfortunately, I didn’t hurry up and finish this book because I was dying to see what happened at the end, I hurried up and finished it because I wanted to be finished with it. And that’s such a horrible thing to think about such a short book. I loved the general concept, but I was bored with where the story took us. I really hope the future installments are different, or I’ll probably have to give up on this series as a whole.