Welcome to part two of the first buddy read of Seanan McGuire’s Wayward Children series! For this read, I am teaming up once again with Marzie’s Reads and a new guest commenter, and friend of the blog, Janelle.
Every Heart a Doorway is the first in the Wayward Children series of novellas if you read the books in publication order, and the third book chronologically. We’re reading the books in publication order for this discussion.
Head over to Marzie’s Reads for part one of our discussion and be sure to come back and read part two below!
Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children
Children have always disappeared under the right conditions; slipping through the shadows under a bed or at the back of a wardrobe, tumbling down rabbit holes and into old wells, and emerging somewhere… else.
But magical lands have little need for used-up miracle children.
Nancy tumbled once, but now she’s back. The things she’s experienced… they change a person. The children under Miss West’s care understand all too well. And each of them is seeking a way back to their own fantasy world.
But Nancy’s arrival marks a change at the Home. There’s a darkness just around each corner, and when tragedy strikes, it’s up to Nancy and her new-found schoolmates to get to the heart of the matter.
No matter the cost.
Every Heart a Doorway is one of those books that crept up on me. The first time I read it, I thought it was nice, a good story, enjoyable enough – but then I kept thinking about it. And finding reasons to recommend it to people. And flinging copies at people. And the more I thought about it, the more I realized that Every Heart a Doorway is the book that everyone needs.
Starting at about 8th grade I became painfully aware of how dissonant the world is from how I feel the world *should* be. Every Heart a Doorway embraces that feeling fully, acknowledging that for some people, our world just doesn’t fit. Every Heart a Doorway says to us “It’s okay if it doesn’t fit. It’s okay to imagine another place that does fit, and it’s okay to long for that place.” Not only does Every Heart a Doorway acknowledge this, but it also acknowledges the reality of our world by featuring a diverse cast. There are characters of color, old characters, young characters, queer characters, nice characters, mean characters, shy characters, exuberant characters and characters of many different backgrounds. Every Heart a Doorway reflects our world where so many of the books we encounter erase and ignore diversity, or include token characters to tick boxes. In this, it offers people a chance to be seen, to be represented in fiction and that is a powerful thing just by itself. It resonates deeply within us and for me, created a burning longing for a place I can’t ever go….unless I find my door.
There’s a reason Every Heart A Doorway has won just about every literary award it’s eligible for.
If you haven’t read part one of our discussion at Marzie’s Reads, click over and be sure to come back and read part two below!
Marzie: In terms of other things I linger on in this book, I loved Sumi’s words to Nancy- “You’re nobody’s rainbow, You’re nobody’s princess. You’re nobody’s doorway but your own, and the only one who gets to tell how your story ends is you.”
Janelle: Oh, I love Sumi, too. I feel like that quote right there encapsulates the story. I think it’s lovely that it was Sumi who said it to Nancy.
Alex: I was totally with Nancy on Sumi. She was endearing but exhausting. I was relieved when she stopped being an active character.
Marzie: I actually felt very bad for Sumi. I feel like Jill wrote the ending to Sumi’s story, which made me feel even worse. But yes, she was exhausting. Unlike Nancy’s reflex to stillness, Sumi’s reflex was to chaos, in a way. But I think her thoughts there are so important for young people, particularly young women.
Alex: Jill did try to write the ending to Sumi’s story, and to Lundy’s, even though bitter Lundy thought she already knew how her story ended. Ultimately she ruins every hope of attaining the ending she coveted so fiercely.
Marzie: Am I a horrible person for not liking Lundy? She had a compelling story with the reverse aging but I really didn’t like her. At all.
Alex: Lundy was the saddest character to me. She was so bitter, so unhappy and it made her feel like all those adults who have given up on chasing their dreams that they just rain “reality” all over the dreams of the young people she’s supposed to be nurturing
Janelle: I didn’t really warm up to Lundy. Her character held too many contrasts — fantastic character design on Seanan’s part, but her jagged edges irritated me.
Marzie: I guess I feel bad about how bitter she is but still don’t like her even a bit. It was odd that Jill chose her in a way. I realize she was taking the best of everyone. I guess that I should just be glad she couldn’t find a way to excise Kade’s harmonious nature, or something.
Alex: That all being said, I am still really, REALLY excited to read her story, and meet the girl she was before she became so jaded. In An Absent Dream can’t come soon enough!
Marzie: That’s true. Perhaps I’ll like her better if I read about how she got to be so bitter? Building empathy for that character could get me past my reaction of disliking her so.
Janelle: In an Absent Dream is my favorite, but that’s usually true of each one that I’ve read right after I’ve read it.
Marzie: That makes me want to sit down and read it and ignore my ARC commitments. LOL I have loved each. Maybe IAAD will make me like Lundy better. I do have to say that I really needed Jack and Jill’s backstory to make me forgive Jill. And it made me love Jack so much more.
Alex: But we’ll cover that next month, when we discuss Down Among the Sticks and Bones. 🙂
Marzie: What do you think of Seanan coming up with the compass assignments of Logic and Nonsense, Virtue and Wickedness, etc.?
Alex: I loooooved that, and it totally makes sense to me. This is one of the things that I bumped on in the book – it’s simple enough that I struggled with understanding how students could struggle with understanding it. But I’d be in a Logical world, so….
Marzie: I agree with how fantastic this was and it is so Seanan! I’d have to be in a Logical world, too. But with lots of color. May I have a psychedelic logical world, please?
Janelle: I would be Logic as well, but probably a dark world.
Alex: Okay, Tor.com is missing the opportunity to do one of those “what doorway would open for you” buzzfeed style of quizzes that are so popular on facebook right now based on the worlds Seanan has described.
Marzie: That is such an awesome idea, Alex! You should tweet about it for this Buddy Read, in advance of the release of the fourth book.
Alex: When I first read EHAD, I was NOT expecting a gory scooby-doo style murder mystery, but that’s sure what we got.
Marzie: Actually, that brings me to a question that again relates to the Mira Grant vibe even though these are pure fantasy.. Several people have asked me if these are children’s books. I’m kind of on the fence about that. When I was a kid I loved gory stories. But are these too gory? Are these fairy tales for adults or for young adults? Would you give this book to a middle grade student?
Janelle: I’d definitely recommend to 8th grade and up.
Alex: These are Young Adult books. They’re ideal for 8th grade and up. I’ve been recommending them to my mom who works as a middle school counselor.
Marzie: Middle school seems like a good fit. I’m totally in agreement especially because puberty is when so many kids start to doubt how they express themselves in the world. I think the scooby-doo murder mystery aspect is a perfect foil for some of the really deep things the book has to say about representation and being yourself.
Join us later this month for our reviews and discussion of the second book in Wayward Children series, Down Among The Sticks and Bones!