Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire
Every Heart a Doorway is a really touching story that, considering it’s only a fairly short read, manages to pack a real punch and deliver an intriguing plot, a multitude of hidden worlds and a look at important issues such as identity and fitting in. I think this will affect readers in different ways. I certainly think it will speak to some readers in an emotional way whilst others will be able to read a captivating fairytale that turns dark and menacing as the story progresses.
I thoroughly enjoyed this story in fact it felt like I’d momentarily found my own doorway to something different and having returned, like the characters in the story, I want to go back for more.
The story takes place in a school and I confess that I’m ever the sucker for a school setting. Miss Eleanor’s Home for Wayward Children is actually a home for children who are different. Each of them has found their own special place, reached through a doorway that can lead to an Underworld, a world of chaos, rainbows and unicorns or even a spider world. Some of them have spent years in their own special world although it may only be days or weeks in our world but having returned most of them are now unable to find that magical portal again. They were misfits before they found their own promised land and they’re misfits when they return and Miss Eleanor takes these children into her care. She understands their unhappiness because she has herself also passed through a portal.
Appropriately named, every heart literally can be a doorway.
At the start of the story Nancy has returned from her own special world. Hers was an underworld, home of the dead and the King of the realm paid special attention to Nancy gifting her hair with a white streak when he ran his fingers through her tresses. She desperately wants to return to the quiet and the stillness, the shadows and the dark but like the other inhabitants of the school she can no longer conjure an entrance. For the most part the school is a rather sad place as each of the students come to terms with their loss and begins to realise they may never return. However, it’s never been considered a dangerous place until the first student is found murdered in a quite horrific way. Now the school faces the possibility of closure but more than that all the students are potentially in great danger themselves.
Like I said above. There is such a lot to take from this book. There’s the story that I’ve briefly outlined above which is wonderfully written and totally intriguing and of course there’s a murder mystery to be solved. But, much more than that the story takes a look at those people that never quite fit in. Unlike their peers they stand out at best and are open to ridicule at worst and unfortunately enrolling in a school of people with similar difficulties and experiences is far from a protection against prejudice and bullying! Even at Eleanor’s home there are cliques. It turns out that if your little slice of paradise was a little more dark or foreboding then you’re not welcome even with the other students who are considered misfits by the majority of the waking world.
This is a very touching story in respect of the more thought provoking aspects. It takes a look at issues such as anorexia and mental illness and the struggle that children and young adults have not only in transitioning to adulthood but also becoming comfortable with themselves and their own sexuality. I must stress though that this is very gently done, it’s not overtly a message about any of these issues but they’re all intrinsic to the story.
I thought this was a wonderful little nugget. It’s well written, very easy to engage with and is a book that will please readers in different ways.
In terms of criticisms – I have none for the book itself, just that the story came to a conclusion all too suddenly and I wanted more.
I received a copy courtesy of the publishers through Netgalley for which my thanks. The above is my own opinion.