Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire

From the publisher: 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.

Seanan McGuire’s Every Heart a Doorway was not what I expected, but it’s hard to know what to expect from Seanan McGuire. In any event, I loved it. It is short – lamentably short. I fervently hope it is the first in the series. It definitely stands alone, but there is plenty of room for additional stories set in the same world.

This book would be great in the hands of the right reader, teen or adult. It’s all about not fitting in and the search for the place that feels like your true home. It is full of characters who believe they are misfits. One character is asexual, another is a boy in a girl’s body, and there are twin girls (Jack and Jill) who were assigned the roles of “the pretty one” and “the smart one” by their parents but who are now seeking their own identities. “You’re nobody’s doorway but your own, and the only one who gets to tell you how your story ends is you,” writes one character. (p. 109 of the advance reader copy) What a powerful message!

Every Heart a Doorway is also a great story. It reminded me a bit of the Harry Potter series, actually, as the story takes place at a boarding school where terrible things are happening to students. The character development is not great, which is not surprising in a book that is under 200 pages. What I liked most was the immersion in a setting where everyone is different, on the surface and inside, and seeking the place where they belong. “This is not an asylum, and you are not mad – and so what if you were?” asks the school’s headmistress. “This world is unforgiving and cruel to those it judges as even the slightest bit outside the norm. If anyone should be kind, understanding, accepting, loving to their fellow outcasts, it’s you. All of you.” (p. 64 of the advance reader copy) Another powerful  message.

I am not a Narnia fan, and as an added bonus, a character in this book criticizes the Narnia series (the second book I’ve read in the last month to do so, score, the other being Arcadia by Iain Pears). “Narnia was a Christian allegory pretending to be a fantasy series,” says one of the boys who has been through his own doorway. “C.S. Lewis never went through any doors. He didn’t know how it worked.” (p. 64 of the advance reader copy)

I read an advance reader copy of Every Heart a Doorway. It will be published on April 5 and will be available at the Galesburg Public Library in adult fiction and young adult fiction and as an ebook.

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