“Every Heart a Doorway” by Seanan McGuire

Every Heart a DoorwayMy mind was in a weird place when I reached for this book, but I was glad to find it the perfect story to satiate it. Every Heart a Doorway tickled my brain cells and made me think of some weird shit; weird because the story is based in our world and it gives credence to the impossible and the fantastic and validates our odd quirks.

Quick overview:

Every Heart a Doorway is a fantasy, young-adult novella that packs a punch. It’s about kids who make it back to the real world after visiting magical ones and how they cope with readjusting to a normal life.

The story is told from the perspective of Nancy, a teenaged girl who recently returned from the Halls of the Dead, as she tries to adjust to her new school, Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children, a boarding school for children who have returned from other worlds. Eleanor West is an older woman who started the school because she understands what such children endure. She provides a sanctuary for them. Of course, she doesn’t tell parents this. Instead, she tells parents and guardians, who often are unaware of the magical realms, that she can help their troubled charges adjust. That she can “fix” them.

Shortly after Nancy arrives at the school, the students’ lives are threatened and Nancy becomes a prime suspect because of her connection to the Halls of the Dead.

My thoughts:

I don’t think that overview was great, but I find it hard to succinctly recount what occurs in the book without giving too much away. Basically, the story is great and if you love fantasy novels, especially ones with portals from the real world into fantastical ones, you should read it.

I immediately fell in love with the story upon starting it and its concept stuck with me long after I’d completed the book. I love McGuire’s prose, and since this is my first time reading what she’s written, I’ve vowed to read more of her work. I also like the atmosphere created about the boarding school and the main characters as well.

Though this is a very short book, with just 169 pages, it packs in a lot. Not only does it tell a great story, it also touches on topics that are debated today, like gender and sexuality, though I think at times the author was a bit heavy handed in how she dealt with them, or maybe that’s because of the book’s short length. The concept of the story assures readers that it’s okay to be yourself, different, and not fit in. That part of the story highly appealed to me. Actually, as I read along I started to think it could be possible that I spent some time in a fairy world when I was younger and, finding it hard to let go, I turned to works of fantasy. Regarding the structure of the worlds in the story, I believe I’m from a place of High Nonsense that often seem like Logic.

Speaking of the world building, I’d like to see this book become a series so I can know more. I find the ordering of the magical worlds into varying degrees of nonsense and logic very interesting and highly appealing and I’d love to see a map of sorts. I wonder if the High Logic and High Nonsense worlds are close to each other or bleed into each other though they would be at opposite ends on a spectrum. Actually, though the story felt complete when I was done reading, it felt complete as an installment in a series would seem complete. The story could stand on its own, but there’re so many potential threads to explore in it and I’d LOVE if McGuire humored me and wrote more books set in this “world”.

I had to put quotes around world above because though the story is based in the real world, the boarding school seems to be a separate entity from it because of the people who live there. Also, there are worlds in the real world presented in the story and I’d like to know more about people falling in and out of them.

Those who return from such fantastical places often develop characteristics of that world, or rather the world emphasizes a characteristic they’ve always had. It seems that the world calls to those who are most like it, which makes Kade’s story very interesting. I’d like to know more about what he endured in his world and how his life was when he returned to this one.

**Minor spoilers** I kept having to remind myself of Kade’s gender as I read, which was odd of me since he is referred to with male pronouns throughout the story. I think this is because his backstory is discussed often and at those times, I kept having to remind myself that he was once considered a girl, which then made me a little confused afterward.

However, I kept imagining Jack, who is one of my two favorite characters in the story (the other is Sumi, who is awesome! I was so sad when…) as a guy. She doesn’t act girly, like her sister, but neither does she act like a guy. In a way, she seems genderless to me, which made me wonder why I assumed a male gender for her. Now that I reflect on the story, I also wonder why I assumed her genderless despite the female pronouns used to refer to her… I think my assumptions of the characters expose stereotypes I didn’t know I had. **End of spoiler territory**

The story has a hint of a thriller in it, but I wasn’t interested in that. My focus was on how the characters stood out because of where they had been and what their worlds were like. I loved the therapy sessions and I wish the story included more so I could learn more about the characters.

Much as I enjoyed the story, I didn’t like that the parents in it were horrible. It is possible for a teenager to get along well and have a strong relationship with their parents though many may think the kid odd or weird. It’s as if none of the parents in the book tried to accept their children as who they are rather than force them to be someone else. I wonder if there is at least one person at the school who’s there simply because they want to attend a school with like-minded souls and not because they are trying to escape a strained relationship with their parents. Also, I wonder what happens to the parents’ relationship when their child disappears, especially if it occurs more than once.

Overall: ★★★★★

Five stars because the story is great for being confined to such few pages. I enjoyed it and can’t wait to read more. It seems that it will be a series with another novella scheduled for next year.

I think it’s better to get it as paperback though. It angered me that I bought such as short book as a hardback. I’m not a fan of hardbacks.

10 thoughts on ““Every Heart a Doorway” by Seanan McGuire

  1. I’ve heard a great deal about this book 🙂 I saw it was really short in real life I was liek wtf thats it?? LOL so I was hesitant if I should buy it or not but I think I will now with the details you mentioned 😉 Especially that fanntasyy vibe and the great world building AND SEXUALITY 8D- Trang


    1. I dunno about buying the hardback (I don’t like hardbacks) but the story is great so I highly recommend it.
      OMG! I just realize that I said hardly anything of the protagonist. 😦 The story does a great job of presenting a diversity of sexuality.


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