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Every Heart a Doorway Review
Wayward children #1
If somehow you haven’t heard of Seanan McGuire’s Wayward Children series, its first book, Every Heart a Doorway is one of the most hyped up books this year. Winner of a bunch of awards like the Hugo and the Nebula, Every Heart a Doorway follows the lives of children after they come back through the looking glass, and how they come to terms with being back in the real world. We follow a school of children, each different in their fantastical experiences being in different alternate universes, and desperately trying to find a way back.
Great premise, not so great execution.
“For us, places we went were home. We didn’t care if they were good or evil or neutral or what. We cared about the fact that for the first time, we didn’t have to pretend to be something we weren’t. We just got to be. That made all the difference in the world.”
Being a pretty short book, I actively avoided any reviews in fear of spoilers. As a result, I didn’t know much about the plot other than what I’ve written above. What disappointed me the most was that I didn’t get what I was sold in the blurb. Maybe this was my own fault, but I was expecting Harry Potter style adventure and discovery and what I got instead was a murder mystery whodunnit. What I really wanted was an exploration of all the worlds these children have been to and their crazy experiences. While the novel did address their pasts, it definitely wasn’t the core of the story. In addition, the murder mystery style plot was under developed and it was glaringly obvious who the killer was and what their motives were from the very beginning.
The exploration of the worlds through the children’s retellings was really awesome. Some came from worlds similar to Hades’ underworld, and others from a Lewis Caroll styled wonderland. In this, the book goes deep into the theme of belonging and finding solace in places far from the home where one is born and raised and away from the traditional notion of family. Extending this theme further, this book explores LGBTQI+ diversity with a character with gender dysphoria and their experience being bullied and ridiculed based on that fact.
I really wasn’t a fan of the writing. Told in third person, the novel jumps from perspective to perspective and I often found it hard to determine which character I was following. Additionally, a lot of the characters are incredibly diverse but something about the writing made them sound superficial.
“Hope hurts. That’s what you need to learn, and fast, if you don’t want it to cut you open from the inside out. Hope is bad. Hope means you keep on holding to things that won’t ever be so again, and so you bleed an inch at a time until there’s nothing left. Ely-Eleanor is always saying ‘don’t use this word’ and ‘don’t use that word,’ but she never bans the ones that really bad. She never bans hope.”
Further to this point, what was meant to be natural character development felt like unnecessary info dumps. For example, at the very beginning of the book the main character enters the school and is immediately highlighted as asexual and that another character has gender dysphoria. While I do appreciate the presence of diversity in the novel, there were many opportunities to learn these characteristics organically later on in the book and doing it in this manner was incredibly jarring. People are more than their gender and sexuality and to know these facts before exploring the characters’ personalities was beyond me – but this is a chat for another time.
Overall, I think Every Heart a Doorway was okay. I’m honestly upset at being let down by this one since I was looking forward to it for so long. If it weren’t for the low page count, I would probably have DNFed it. I’m looking forward to the sequel (prequel?) Down Among The Sticks and Bones in hopes that I find more of what I expected to get out of this book.
What hyped up books have you read this year and didn’t enjoy? Probably going to take a break from YA for a little while 😦