Children are finding themselves having a hard time adjusting back to the real world after they lived in a fantasy world, but fortunately for them, there is a special school that’ll help them deal with their new, more mundane life. That is the plot premise of Every Heart a Doorway I couldn’t help but feel like I was floating in the clouds because of McGuire’s puffy and whimsical prose. This is the type of book you read slowly and kind of enjoy how the words play off each other. Nancy is the main character and we follow her as she arrives at this special school run by Eleanor West, a former portal hopper herself. Eleanor tells Nancy that every student, mostly girls, has gone to a different type of fantasy land, each unique. This is the story of Nancy dealing with being in the real world and meeting all these other individuals that went to their own portal fantasy world, but when tragedy strikes, this super light-hearted book becomes chilling.
Because this is a short novella the author introduces all the characters relatively quick and I loved that about this book because the characters were fantastic. Nancy is this dark, goth-like girl, that likes to stand completely still, is asexual, and disappears into the background. Sumi is a really highly energetic girl that loves to over exaggerate with everything and is super blunt. There are two twins, Jack and Jill, both girls, that got taken to the same fantasy world, where one becomes a mad scientist’s assistant, and the other a doting servant to her master. Another character is Kade, and he was thrown out of his fairyland because they found out even though he looked like a girl, on the inside he was a boy. There are many more minor characters and even though this is a novella the characterization is better than some books with 1,000 pages.
The book does turn into kind of a mystery solve-it type story but the characters never stop being the focus. The rules of what these kids can do or can’t do after coming back from the fantasy worlds are never really explained. We have some kids that can basically do some magic even though they are now in our world. I was a little bit put off by this aspect but chose to ignore it. One thing that was hard to ignore was the disregard for these student’s safety by not calling the police. The people at the school, including the head of the school Eleanor, decide to deal with things on their own except calling for the authorities. It kind of makes sense they wouldn’t call the police but the measures they take to keep the students safe was seriously lacking.
Every Heart a Doorway is an excellent way to spend an afternoon or evening reading. The prose sucks you into the story and the characters keep you entertained. My only advice is to not take the story too seriously. If you take the story too seriously you will see a lot of inconsistencies and plot issues. A great story for teens that don’t feel like they fit in the world that they live in. I’m looking forward to the second novella, that focuses on Jack and Jill.
17/25 Possible Score
3 – Plot
4 – Characters
3 – World Building
4 – Writing Style
3 – Heart and Mind Aspect