Genre: young adult, fantasy, magical realism, LGBTQIA+
Content warnings: death, murder
This is just one of those books that I will be always grateful to have stumbled upon. I was browsing a book recommendations post on tumblr with awesome asexual/aromantic representation. That’s all I knew about the story, an ace main character and I read the blurb. I went in with no expectations and this little series instantly made it to my all time favorites list.
The Wayward Children is a series of short novellas set in a world, where on Earth special kids exist. They might not be special to the people around them, but they are chosen by other worlds to accept as their own. The worlds want them so bad that a door appears to the chosen child inviting them to live in the world that is most compatible with them. The only instruction they get is that they need to be sure of their choice and they have to keep their new world’s rules. It is a portal-magic series with lots of heart and a very lovely and diverse set of characters.
It is honestly incredible to me to this day how thin these books are compared to other young adult stories.. and despite that so many things happen! I never feel like the book was cut short or any character development or bonding scenes were cut or rushed. Seanan is just mighty good.
I also have to mention the prose! Ever since my love was reignited for Maggie Stiefvater’s beautiful soul-touching prose I have been craving it from other books. This book was the first one that gave me that same comfort, of feeling known and connecting so deeply to an author’s principles. The series has beautiful, unapologetically feminist prose throughout and it won’t stand for anything less.
In each book we have a central character whose story is the main focus of the plot and a few supporting characters who will be back from time to time in the other books, or end up being the protagonists in that book. All books and plot are connected, even if chronologically they have a fun trick to them. Every odd volume is set in the present, every even is set in the past.
As such, the first book, Every Heart a Doorway is set in the present, and follows Nancy and her adminission to Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children. This is a great set up as we both learn more about Nancy and we are introduced to the world through her.
Nancy was young when she found a peculiar door in the cellar and on the opposite side she found herself in a garden of pomegranate trees. She fell in love with the Halls Of The Death immediately and never wanted to return to the world she was born in. However, after years, she was still sent back to her birth-world. A world that is far too fast and noisy for her, to parents who never really understood her. Her parents of course don’t believe a word about mysterious doors and a world filled with ghosts and living statues and as a last resort they send her away to a boarding school for troubled kids.
The only thing they don’t realize is that the headmistress, Eleanor, has been through the doors herself and the stuff she tells to desperate parents is nothing more than a well rehearsed sales pitch. Eleanor was one of the lucky ones, her doors allowed her to visit between the world of her choice and her birth-world several times. Still she lives in her birth-world now, trying to guide kids who went through similair journeys. Eleanor, with the help of a small staff, offers lessons and counseling to the kids. As a part of this, every kid shares about the world they found. The worlds are as different as can be and the kids only seem to have one thing in common: they all hope to return one day.
As Nancy makes some friends and struggles to accept that she might never return to her beloved world, a murder mystery intrudes on their peaceful school life. She and her new friends set out to solve the mystery while also keeping an eye out for doors that could appear at any place.
The series is about finding your place in the world, finding a place that feels like it was made for you – and then loosing it. Do you give up hope or can you keep faith that you will be able to return? What happened to those kids who just disappeared one day? Did they find doors of their own or did something else happen to them? Despite all the hard hitting questions the books manage to be full of hope and heart.
I am just going to to happy-cry a little in the corner because I just realized we are getting a boxset release for the first three volumes. It’s not like I don’t have them already, but do I also need the set? Absolutely.
Where to find: