Every Heart a Doorway
by Seanan McGuire
read from 5 to 10 December 2016
rating: ★★★★☆ (Goodreads)
actual rating: 3.5 stars
“For us, places we went were home. We didn’t care if they were good or evil or neutral or what. We cared about the fact that for the first time, we didn’t have to pretend to be something we weren’t. We just got to be. That made all the difference in the world.”
I have no idea how to start this review. I don’t know how to write reviews for books I enjoyed or don’t think there’s much wrong with! Prepare yourselves for a very incoherent review.
First of all, I absolutely loved the diversity. Nancy, the main character, is asexual. There is also diversity among the side-characters, such as a trans boy, a Latino boy and a girl of Japanese descent. That’s the kind of representation I love: characters who aren’t straight or white, without the story revolving around that aspect of them. That’s just my personal preference though, and I will continue to read books that deal with diversity in a different way as well. Furthermore, this book also features some feminism, like this quote:
“We notice the silence of men. We depend upon the silence of women.”
There is one side-character who is transphobic, but it is made very clear that the other characters don’t agree with that. Still, I thought I might warn trans readers about that.
I thought the world-building was very original. It’s obvious what the author’s inspirations were (like Alice in Wonderland and Narnia), but still, I haven’t read anything like it. Every Heart a Doorway sure was much darker than I had anticipated, and I liked it! However, I don’t know whether I’d be able to stomach a film adaptation; it’d be too gory. Not that there is going to be one, as far as I know.
At first, I had no idea what was going on, but that was done intentionally. Our main character was clueless as well. At the end of the story, I understood much more about the different doors and am curious in reading more about them. Having said that, I’m disappointed that the second installment is going to be a prequel. I’d rather have a sequel, that doesn’t necessarily have to revolve around Nancy.
To be honest, I wasn’t very attached to the characters. Still, I thought they were all likeable (except for some side-characters who we weren’t supposed to like). They’re not perfect teenagers, but it makes sense, keeping in mind which worlds they grew up in.
Most of the time, I don’t really have an opinion on the author’s writing style. But I thoroughly enjoyed Seanan McGuire’s writing; I highlighted a bunch of beautiful and meaningful quotes. During the final chapters, however, the point of view suddenly changed mid-chapter. Almost the entire book was from Nancy’s POV and all of the sudden, that changed. I didn’t like that, because it was unclear whose thoughts we were witnessing.
Unlike many readers, the length of this book – it is merely 176 pages long – didn’t bother me. But I do have to admit that due to the ending, I lowered my rating. The revelations were a bit anticlimactic and things wrapped up too easily and fast. I read this as an e-book and was planning to buy a physical copy afterwards, but because of the ending, I don’t plan on doing that anymore.
Finally, I was a bit bothered by the insta-friendships and isnta-love. I might be wrong, but I think the story took place over a couple of days. Yet Nancy, who is new to the school, pretends as if she had a great friendship with Sumi already. Furthermore, there wasn’t exactly a romance between Kade and Nancy, but there were hints. Just like the friendship, I had no idea where it came from, since the characters had only interacted a handful of times.
conclusion: Overall, I had expected more. Still, I’d recommend Every Heart a Doorway, because of the diversity (and the way it is dealt with), original setting and overall enjoyment!