Review: Every Heart a Doorway

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  • Release Date: April 5th, 2016
  • Author: Seanan McGuire
  • Website: http://www.seananmcguire.com/
  • ISBN: 9780765385505

Review:

I was one of those kids who tested wardrobe walls and kept an eye on looking-glasses, just in case. I devoured The Chronicles of Narnia and Into the Land of the Unicorns and Harry Potter, wishing the whole time that something so marvelous would happen to me. Many times, though, I felt disappointed by the last page. The child-heroes of these stories always returned to their mundane lives at the end. It annoyed me. Who would want to come back?

Every Heart a Doorway raises this very same question.

We meet our heroine, Nancy, on her first day at Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children. Her parents think it is an upscale rehabilitation facility that will bring back the girl their daughter was before her “kidnapping”. In reality, the Home is there to help children who can’t find their way back to the magical worlds that once welcomed them. Some of them will never go back. Some of them will do anything to try.

If you like Neil Gaiman or Holly Black, this should be your next pick. Every Heart is the perfect thing to hand that precocious 11-year-old who reads too much, but don’t be fooled: this is an adult book about teenagers, and kids are not necessarily the intended audience. I would have loved this novel when I was a preteen, but it wouldn’t have punched me in the gut in the same way it did now that I’m an adult. McGuire’s prose ensnares your heart and squeezes it every time you think you’re done feeling poignant and mesmerized. It’s not a long book — 173 pages — but she works every sentence to the bone.

But best of all? The representation.

I know, I sound like a broken record. If you spent most of your life fighting to see people like you and your loved ones on the page, you’d sound like one, too. That’s why McGuire’s inclusion of diverse characters is important, but more pressingly, it’s important that it’s so well done. Every Heart a Doorway is a story of (and for) the marginalized: heck, it’s the mythic archetype. What else would you call a novella about misfit kids pining for a home where their quirks will be embraced?  This isn’t an unusual trope, of course — every “chosen one” narrative from King Arthur to Harry Potter hinges on an out-of-place hero — but McGuire doesn’t let the metaphor stay a metaphor.

We’re seeing a shift towards more content with marginalized characters — especially gay and lesbian characters — but not the same shift toward content that respects or understands marginalized characters. If a show promises me lesbians, it has to prove it wants to do right by them (and its audience) before I’ll take the bait. Every Heart a Doorway passes that test with flying colors.

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The other kind of flame war.

I have to apologize again for the lack of content. There are a few reasons: most of what I’ve been reading lately are ARCs for upcoming titles, not a lot of books have inspired me enough to review them one way or another, I’ve been picking up extra shifts at work, and — most dramatically — I just spent the weekend stuck in a hotel because of a fire in my apartment building!

This is fine.

Pro tip: if you’re running out the door, leave it open. The firefighters can and will break it down if you don’t.

As of today, I am back home and getting settled. No one was hurt and the damage to the building was minor, so they let us back fairly quickly. I’m exhausted. A cleaning crew of angels scrubbed the entire place while I was gone, so fortunately all I have left to do is laundry, but my altered sleep schedule and the anxiety of having been almost literally set on fire have been draining.

Everyone has been so supportive and kind, though, and that warms my heart. I couldn’t ask for better coworkers and friends.

However, I do have some things planned! May is a big month for book releases and I have several reviews already queued up. I’m planning a write-up of a few late April titles, too (The Lie Tree, mainly) and soon I’ll have my hands on a copy of the much-anticipated conclusion to Maggie Stiefvater’s hit Raven Cycle series, The Raven King.

Stay tuned!