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 things.
No matter the cost.
For those who wondered what happened after the story, Every Heart a Doorway presents an answer. The plotline follows a sort of rehab facility where kids who have traveled to other worlds and, for one reason or another, returned back live and try to move on. The story begins with the arrival of Nancy, who had been to an Underworld, and changed by it. She doesn’t know how to navigate this living breathing world where the rules are so different that she can’t cope. So, when she arrives at Eleanor West (who herself was one such Wayward child) she is surprised but wary that there are other people like her out there. Told from a third perspective, it mostly focuses on Nancy, but sometimes it focuses on other characters too.
The book, while short, devotes itself to three aspects – the rules of the world and world-building, the stories some of the kids came from, and finally a series of murders that begin the next day after Nancy’s arrival. A big drawback of the book is its length. 176 pages felt too less of a time to explore the various themes that the books presents. Nancy’s asexuality is a theme that is explored – she explains over and over to her new friends what her asexuality means with respect to dating and relationships. Kade’s gender identity is also a topic that is juxtaposed against the rules of the world. The writing frequently calls for an understanding of differences, an acceptance of rules in some instances and disregard in some instances. The main theme, though, is having someone or something understand you wholly and the universe bending for you to meet or be in that place.
Actually, what I liked most about the world-building is how it explained the different worlds calling out to specific people, or during specific points in their life. Though the kids are bound by a common thread of now being in a world they don’t belong to, the different worlds they do belong to divides them. There is a classification system in place for the worlds whose doors were open, and a lot of them sound like Wonderland, but some also sound like Fae realms. It is interesting to imagine how the different worlds would have different rules and customs, and the culture shock those kids who had acclimatized to that world feel on coming back. Which brings us to the feelings of loneliness and dissociation that Nancy feels on coming back – she wants to go back, at any cost, just like the others. And THAT drives the story.