Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire (fantasy 169 pages) was on my Asexual reading list from 2018. As is usually the case, life happened and things got busy.
“Eleanor West’s home for wayward children. No solicitations. No visitors. No quests. Children have always disappeared under the right conditions – slipping through the shadows under a bed or at the back of a wardrobe, tumbling down rabbit holes and into old wells and emerging somewhere … else. But magical lands have little need for used-up miracle children. Nancy tumbled once, but now she’s back. The things she’s experienced … they change a person. The children under Miss West’s care understand all too well. And each of them is seeking a way back to their own fantasy world. But Nancy’s arrival marks a change at the home. There’s a darkness just around each corner, and when tragedy strikes, it’s up to Nancy and her newfound schoolmates to get to the heart of things. No matter the cost.”
The main character of the novel, Nancy, is an asexual teenager whose parents sent her to Eleanor West’s school with the intent of “fixing” her. I think that says a lot about how sometimes families and people who love the people in their lives can love more of the idea of what they think a person should be instead of loving the actual person. Nancy’s parents wanted their bright and sunny daughter back instead of the self-composed, darkly dressed asexual daughter they actually have but didn’t want to see. They loved the idea of their daughter more than the flesh and blood daughter in front of them.
What’s really interesting to me, though, is that all of the characters in the story struggle with the same concept of how their families react to who they truly are and only find happiness by going someplace where they get to one hundred percent be themselves without masks. I think a lot of people, especially those in the queer community, struggle with finding acceptance for who they are and get tired of wearing masks all the time to pretend to be someone else.
I’m very glad I had a chance to pick up this book and read it. It’s a very different take on portal fantasies. And also a very different take on diverse characters, as the characters just are different sexualities and aren’t suffering trauma because of it. Kade just is transgender, which doesn’t change his character at all. He exists as he is and that’s accepted by the majority of characters within the book. The few times other characters display their bigotry, the instructors at the school and even the other students respond negatively, which is exactly what I would hope for in the world.
Overall, this book is easily a high three on my rating scale. I am happy I bought it and I’m very likely to read it again in the future.
Works cited: McGuire, Seanan. Every Heart a Doorway. New York: Tom Doherty Associates, 2016.