The premise of this book, and the great reviews of a lot of Cannonballers, placed this one on my TBR pile. A boarding school for “problematic children” serves as a refuge for kids that have found portals into alternate worlds. Having flourished in these different worlds, returning is painful for them. They don’t belong here anymore and long for the place where they can be themselves again.
Unfortunately, the back story of each of the characters and the structure of these portal worlds into lands of Nonsense and Logic is wrapped around a clunky murder mystery that just muddies the waters here. It’s partly an allegory for young adults trying to figure out who they are, part murder mystery and part alternate worlds fantasy. Each part was interesting but the end result was kind of a mess.
I read many super positive reviews by you fine folks on this one, but guys, I just don’t get it. The voice was all over the place and the dialogue was painful. I appreciate that McGuire had diverse characters (asexual, transgender) and approached topics that aren’t typical of YA (or is this really not a YA book?), but I couldn’t get over the writing. It read like fan fiction to me. There are several books, and series of books, that I have read over the years where I can over look bad or mediocre writing because the stories are so good, but I can’t even classify this one as a guilty pleasure. I’m not very excited to write a bad review about a book that was so well received here, but if it hadn’t been so short, I think I would have thrown in the towel on this one.