EVERY HEART A DOORWAY, SEANAN MCGUIRE
Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children is a halfway house for kids who have been to other worlds, and had to come back. For parents and guardians, it’s the last hope for their seriously disturbed children. For the children, it’s the closest they’ll ever come to home in this world.
At its core, Every Heart a Doorway is a straightforward high school story. Obnoxious preppies bully the misfits, while the new girl struggles to find her place. But this is Seanan McGuire, so of course expect blood, acid, and human vivisection.
But this ain’t no grimdark. McGuire deploys her gore almost gleefully, like it livens up the place. Her characters quip and banter as they dispose of inconvenient corpses. Mastering ambivalence, McGuire’s deaths feel both tragic and thrilling.
McGuire’s narrative voice isn’t my cup of tea, often coming across as too affected, but the exquisite concept and the little, chugging engine of the plot kept me glued to the pages.
What struck me hardest about this story about a last chance saloon for desperate and fervent kids—it feels like coming home. McGuire’s written a story for all us daydreamers, for whom belonging is a foreign country, and especially us weirdos who grew up with portal fantasy secretly seeding otherwordly longing in our hearts.
Just as Headmistress Eleanor West sees and welcomes spooky, nervous, asexual Nancy, dashing, transgender Goblin Prince Kade, and dapper scientist Jack, this story sees and welcomes all of us: awkward, lonely, wistful and queer.
Every Heart a Doorway isn’t sophisticated, but it absolutely is a delightfully macabre little murder mystery; as well as a fierce, bloody, vulnerable novel that knows the way right to your heart.