Every Heart a Doorway - Seanan McGuire

Every Heart a Doorway was one of those books which pretty much immediately went onto my TBR list as soon as I heard about it, even though it's a novella rather than a novel and I have mixed feelings about those - some novellas, it's like the plot didn't have quite enough legs to stretch it any further (exceptions to the rule being something like Penric's Demon, where the existing world-building meant additional scaffolding was not required to make it work), but Every Heart a Doorway felt very much sufficient unto itself.

 

The premise of this story is that it's set in a school for children who have been through doors, or found mysterious staircases leading to other worlds, but then come back to our world and no longer fit in. Eleanor, herself someone who has travelled to another place (on more than one occasion) runs the school and convinces parents she will be able to 'cure' their child of this experience, while what she is really doing is trying to help those children deal with the fact that they probably won't ever find their way back to somewhere they felt like they fitted in better. The newest arrival, Nancy, finds herself in a steep learning curve as she discovers she is not alone in having the experience she has had, but also when bad things start happening to her fellow residents. As the new girl, naturally suspicion falls on her.

 

There were a lot of things I liked about Every Heart a Doorway, which takes a logical premise - what happens after your quest is over, if you're someone who's magically found themselves somewhere else? - to its obvious conclusion. We discover partway through that there are, in fact, two schools, both with the purpose of teaching people how to cope with their experience and move on, depending on whether or not they want to remember it.

 

What didn't quite work for me was that the point of view the story is told from shifts a couple of times rather than telling everything from Nancy's restricted perspective. Secondly, that people in this book have issues but all they seem to know what those issues are and have a name for them, which seems a little unlikely for teenagers, even those who've been in other worlds. I would have expected at least one character to have an inkling that something was different about them but not be able to say 'ah, it's because I am [insert terminology]' or 'it's because I have experienced [insert trauma]' - the flip-side of that, often with the assistance of the internet, is pathologising normal development and questioning as something with a label on it.

 

Anyway, despite this I enjoyed Every Heart a Doorway and would have happily read a novel using this premise and characters, so I'd recommend it if you're looking for something that's a little different.