How do you care for your daughter after she returns from the Land of the Dead? If you’re Nancy’s parents, you take her to Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children. Thus begins Every Heart a Doorway. Nancy is delivered to her new home to get better when all she wants is to return to the world she stumbled upon years ago. As does everyone else under Eleanor’s care. She takes care of and helps those children who have crossed over to other worlds and want nothing more than to go back, including Eleanor herself. Though Nancy is surrounded by young people with extraordinary circumstances just like her, she feels out of place in world with so much life. She would want nothing more than to stand in corner, still as a statue, and watch the world pass on around her. That is simply not possible when one of the children in the home is murdered.
Nancy is joined by a wonderfully eclectic cast of characters to reacclimate to the real world and to solve the mystery of who is murdering their classmates. There’s Sumi, Nancy’s roommate, who is a force of chaos speaking wisdom beyond her years and absolute nonsense in the same sentence. There’s Jack and Jill, identical twin sisters raised by a mad scientist and a vampire, respectively. And there’s Kade, a trans student who excels with clothing and textiles and on whom Nancy has a rapidly developed asexual crush.
I know this is a novella, but I sure wish it weren’t so short. I loved McGuire’s writing from the very beginning. She writes like she is having a conversation between friends with the reader. She knows that the story she has to tell is a good one, and she tells it with confidence.