Title: Every Heart a Doorway
Author: Seanan McGuire
Publication date: April 5th 2016
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Every Heart A Doorway, by Seanan McGuire, is a genuinely charming and wonderful book. Not ‘charming’ in a quaint or twee (and slightly condescending way), but a book that simply charmed me as I read it. I devoured the book in two sittings, but would have done so in just one had I started it the night I read the lion’s share of it—and kept reading through the night.
I was expecting this book to be different—and it was. It was a pure delight to read.
Ever wonder what happens to all the special children, the young and wayward stars of portal fantasies? What happens after the story ends—when the adventure is over and it is time to go home? Do our heroes and heroines even want to come back?
I haven’t stopped talking about this book since I finished it. The unfortunate subject of my endless book-talk (my brother) probably knows everything about this book and why I loved it, about as familiarly as he knows his own name. Once I’m done, he’ll be eligible for a degree on Why Leo Loved Every Heart A Doorway.
Every Heart A Doorway made me want to hug the world and everything in it, especially McGuire.
We meet Nancy at Eleanor West’s School For Wayward Children, a new arrival after returning to our world from the Halls of the Dead. She is enrolled by well-meaning parents who want nothing more than to love their daughter, but really, they just want their daughter back: the Nancy who wore bright colours and didn’t act so quiet and still and distant. Their Nancy who hadn’t spent so long in the perfect stillness of the Lord of the Dead’s domain. They want their rainbow princess back.
Well they can carry on wanting.
Eleanor, a formerly misplaced and traveling child herself, keeps up appearances with parents, whilst being completely honest with the children enrolled into the school. Nobody needs to pretend that other worlds don’t exist and that they haven’t spent so much precious time in them.
Nancy doesn’t want to forget the Halls of the Dead—she wants to go back. She just needs to find the door again. However, when Nancy arrives at the school, tragedy soon strikes and she finds herself tangled up in something gruesome. Still uncertain and reeling from everything at the school she barely understands, Nancy is pulled along with a new group of friends as they band together to uncover what is happening. If something isn’t done soon, the future of the school will be in jeopardy and if it is forced to close, where will all the wayward students go?
So much depends on Nancy and her new friends solving this horrible mystery.
The school is largely attended by girls, because girls are so much more easily misplaced than loud, important boys, aren’t they? (I adored this part: the point about girls being easier to let slip away than boys, whom are usually louder and kept closer to hand than girls. Not only is this a very poignant prod towards the treatment of girls, but the addition that even the quiet boys are encouraged or cajoled—by mockery or teasing—to be louder than they naturally are, entirely because they are boys just made me generally happy, because it’s so damn true.)
There’s a great many things in Every Heart A Doorway that are true and illuminating (I’m on board for realistic depictions of parent0,s because you know what? Parents can suck), in that it reads so very much like a fairy tale in and of itself—but one written for the different ones; those who can’t help but be themselves. This isn’t a fairy tale written by adults, encouraging only as much bravery and uniqueness as it takes to be interesting and worthy of attention, but rather a complete reassurance that however you are, however you turn out to be, if you’re happy, you are enough. Do not change; do not be anyone’s rainbow.
Furthermore, it does not shy away from accusing both parents and the rest of the world for the unreasonable and selfish expectations that are placed upon the shoulders of young adults every single day of their lives. But this isn’t a preaching sort of book; it reads more like honesty. It is a blindingly good book.
Everything about this book was perfect. This is the kind of book that proves that diversity is not a difficult demand. Look around you at the world—that’s what this book feels like. An accurate representation of somebody’s life. Nancy is asexual (but not aromantic); there is a trans character; characters of different racial origins that aren’t just white. Bam, bam, bam. Three things there that you see so very rarely.
I wish I didn’t feel the need to point out when diversity is a thing in book, because it feels so completely unnecessary (the pointing out—not the diversity itself, obviously). If a book doesn’t have a varied cast, then your book is not a realistic representation of the real world in which you sat and wrote it. Fact.
So, gloriously, I will loudly yell to everyone I meet about asexual Nancy and the rest of her wonderful comrades at Eleanor West’s School for Wayward Children.
I’ve seen whispered here and there that although this is a finished book in and of itself, there are to be more books in the same setting. I hope this is true. I really, really, really hope this is true, because I can’t adequately describe how much this book delighted and touched me.
An utterly enchanting, charming story of being yourself, no matter what that means. Every Heart A Doorway is perfectly magical, perfectly strange and perfectly delightful—and I couldn’t possibly have loved it more.