Or: I Guess It’s a Personal Challenge To See If a Story Can Make Me Cry In Less Than Two Hundred Pages
Title: Every Heart A Doorway
Author: Seanan McGuire
Genre: Fantasy; LGBT
Page Count: 176
Buy: Support a local book store and purchase from Redux Society!
Rating: Five outta Five
Content Warnings: Grief, hopelessness, discussion of foster care/foster care system, body dysmorphia, PTSD, violence, death, gore, gaslighting, crises of marginalized identities and experiences.
*This is a spoiler-free review! Enjoy!*
“‘We all have our own ways of trying to go home.’”
This book is Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, The Chronicles of Narnia and any other childhood story where children disappear into another world; meets Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, Hogwarts, and any other boarding school story; meets gaslighting, mental health stigmas, and misplaced love; meets my personal style icon who is a little Nanny McPhee and a little Mary Poppins; meets Coraline; meets Girl Interrupted; meets a surprise Hades story; meets LGBTQ representation and non-intrusive explanations of different sexualities; meets the cafeteria scenes from Mean Girls; meets Frankenstein and a little Pan’s Labyrinth with a dash of Clue; meets a story where you’re constantly trying to figure out what’s real and who to trust all the while learning about respecting boundaries and practicing empathy **AND ALL IN LESS THAN TWO HUNDRED PAGES**; meets any of us who struggle to return to reality after time away in a good story.
This one’s embroidery floss for friendship bracelets gone unused and endings that aren’t always fully happy, but happy enough.
While I only recently purchased this book, it’s been on my TBR since it was published, and while they say not to judge a book by its cover, I’ll admit that the cover is the whole reason I wanted to read this book. I didn’t read or watch any reviews about it. I never picked it up at the store and read the cover blurb. I just saw a photo of it and knew I’d read it eventually - I mean look at it. For me, this is another story of how I wish I would have read it sooner.
“You’re nobody’s doorway but your own, and the only one who gets to tell you how your story ends is you.”
This book may contain talk of fairytale worlds and wonder, but don’t be fooled - this story is more about harsh and brutal realities than magic, and it’s more for young adults and adults than children. Don’t let the length of the novel fool you either - even with its short page count, McGuire spends ample time hitting the toughest of tough discussions. This story somehow manages to touch on mental health stigmas, gender expression and sexuality, abandonment, hopelessness, body dysmorphia and self-esteem issues, grief, the difference between good and evil, learned behavior and expectations, gender roles, PTSD, and coping skills, just to name a handful. And that’s not including the actual plot contained within these pages. McGuire also manages to balance the rough stuff with a unique narrative voice that will have you laughing softly to yourself.
In less than two hundred pages, McGuire is able to combine the magic of the fairy tales we read as children with the no-so-ideal realities of the life that we live day to day outside of those stories. This is a story that shows how two disparate ideas can live beside one another and exist in the same space. More than that, McGuire shows us how to cope with change and with the concept of hope when hope feels out of reach or indecipherable. Through this story we’re shown that empathy is how we ultimately move through life successfully. As McGuire writes, “this is a way station, we’re in this together, we all deserve respect."
“‘Remember, only by learning about the journeys of others can we truly understand our own.’”
This is a quick read, so please read it. This story's magical elements and premise, paired with some of the most realistic interactions between characters that you’ll read in a while, makes it a well-balanced narrative that will leave you content with the story, but have you begging for your next adventure.
If you have the ability to, read this one out loud to yourself - hell, have someone read it to you. Experience a story like you used to as a kid. Then let this book help you adjust back to reality. Or not.
I give this book five out of five doorways.
Have you read something today? You should.
Until our next story,