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Book Review

Mini Reviews: Wayward Children

Every Heart a Doorway
Wayward Children, Book 1

By Seanan McGuire

You’re nobody’s doorway but your own, and the only one who gets to tell you how your story ends is you.

I really liked the characters, each with their own quirks and flaws. I loved the writing. The premise was full of promise, but the actual plot left me… unsatisfied? The story started with fantasy elements—both colorful as well as dark—then a little over half way through it declared, “No, that was a false pretense, silly. Deep down, I’m more of a grotesque horror. Psych!”

Let’s step back for a moment to how much I love the writing and characters…

“Older than I look, younger than I ought to be. My skin is a riddle not to be solved, and even letting go of everything I love won’t offer me the answer. My window is closing, if that’s what you’re asking. Every day I wake up a little more linear, a little less lost, and one day I’ll be one of the women who says ‘I had the most charming dream,’ and I’ll mean it. Old enough to know what I’m losing in the process of being found. Is that what you wanted to know?”

Nonsense vs. Logic. Wicked vs. Virtue. Rhyme. I loved the portrayal of characters on the spectrum, and I knew there would be conflict when throwing each into the Home together. The strongest common ground they all shared was that they were all kicked out of their Doors and back into the world. Because of this, there was very little character developement. Each character already was whatever they were going to be the entire time. This isn’t to say I liked them any less, just noting that what you see is what you get. (The one I wanted more from was actually Eleanor West… I wanted her to teach not referee, but there wasn’t enough time in a short book before shit went down.)

Down Among the Sticks and Bones
Wayward Children, Book 2

By Seanan McGuire

[Gemma Lou] had tried to make sure [Jack and Jill] knew that there were a hundred, a thousand, a million different ways to be a girl, and that all of them were valid, and that neither of them was doing anything wrong.

I thoroughly enjoyed this sequel (or really, prequel?) to Every Heart a Doorway! The narration was simply stunning (even with the excessive use of parenthetical remarks) and the story engrossing. I did know where the story was headed the moment *someone* was introduced so it wasn’t as mysterious as the first book. (It also makes you realize how obvious the first mystery should be!) I was hoping for a lot more story about their life in the Moors, but I loved loved loved how the topics of gender “norms” and sexuality were the most integral part!

(The thought that babies would become children, and children would become people, never occurred to [the parents]. The concept that perhaps biology was not destiny, and that not all little girls would be pretty princesses, and not all little boys would be brave soldiers, also never occurred to them. Things might have been easier if those ideas had ever slithered into their heads, unwanted but undeniably important. Alas, their minds were made up, and left no room for such revolutionary opinions.)

The trouble with denying children the freedom to be themselves—with forcing them into an idea of what they should be, not allowing them to choose their own paths—is that all too often, the one drawing the design knows nothing of the desires of their model. Children are not formless clay, to be shaped according to the sculptor’s whim, nor are they blank but identical dolls, waiting to be slipped into the mode that suits them best. Give ten children a toy box, and watch them select ten different toys, regardless of gender or religion or parental expectations. Children have preferences. The danger comes when they, as with any human, are denied those preferences for too long.

Beneath the Sugar Sky
Wayward Children, Book 3

By Seanan McGuire

I’m so grateful to you GoodReaders! If not for you, I wouldn’t have found or picked up Every Heart a Doorway and I would be sorely missing out on a series I didn’t know I needed. I absolutely love each of the Wayward Children installments, but Beneath the Sugar Sky is probably my favorite so far!

The characters… the characters are the best! I have to admit that even though I enjoyed spending time with Jack ♡ in Down Among the Sticks and Bones, I deeply missed Eleanor West’s other amazing children from Every Heart a Doorway. This time, I got to go on an adventure with some of my favorites—Kade and Christopher—and meet some brilliant new characters—Cora, Rini, and Layla! I absolutely love the diversity in the entire series: asexual, transgender, non-binary, gay/lesbian, biromantic, plus-size, congenital amputation, cancer survivor… to name a few, plus an array of ethnicities to boot. Not only does McGuire give us diverse reps, but they are the main characters with well-developed personalities! How the heck is it possible to do that in under 200 pages a segment?! 🙂

I’m still recovering from gut rot and a toothache after visiting Confection because it’s a kaleidoscope of nonsensical sugary sweetness. Essentially it’s Candyland on steriods that Willy Wonka only wished he could have created as the original Baker. Hansel and Gretel would be skipping through its fields today, but they’re most likely prisoners in the Queen of Cake’s gingerbread palace with their luck! Somehow Wayward Children still holds true to bits of horror, although to a lesser degree here.

The writing as always is so enjoyable I can’t help but love it, so I’ll leave you with my favorite:

“A cake’s a cake, whether or not it’s been frosted,” said the stranger primly.
“You are not a cake, you are a human being, and I can see your vagina,” snapped Nadya.
The stranger shrugged. “It’s a nice one. I’m not ashamed of it.”

Wayward Children:
Book 4: In an Absent Dream (2019)
Book 5: Come Tumbling Down (2020)

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