For the first time in my life, I don’t actually want to give a book a rating. Not because I hated it, or loved it, I just don’t think a rating can do it justice either way.
Eleanor West’s home for Wayward children houses kids who have traveled to the most fantastical worlds, each through their own doorway. Upon returning to our world, none of them quite belong, and therefore go to live in a place where they are understood. But a week after Nancy, a girl who traveled to the underworld, arrives, someone begins murdering the children. Will the mystery be solved before the children’s home is shut down for good?
I have decided that there are three types of whimsical books: ones where the characters are rational, but the environment is whimsical (think the starless sea), ones where the world is rational but the characters are not (aka this book), and ones where both the characters and environment make no sense. Unfortunately, I have come to the conclusion that I am only a fan of the first type.
I think if I had had more background on the other worlds the characters went to, or at least had a sense of the “rules” of the universe so to speak, I would have liked it more. But readers are kind of thrown in to characters talking about living in a strange underworld, or on top of a rainbow that one needs special sneakers to traverse, or any of the other odd realms. They were SO random, but the characters all acted like it was totally normal, which was really jarring for an outsider. I didn’t feel particularly connected to any of them because I couldn’t get a grasp on the randomness.
Despite not really being able to get into the story, there I did enjoy a lot of the messages. All of the kids in the home didn’t really fit into life before traveling to Their dimensions, and it was really nice to think that maybe those of us who feel different aren’t “wrong”, we just haven’t found the right doorway to step through yet. Plus, there are a couple of different LGBTQ identities represented that I thought were done very well (although if you disagree, please let me know!)
The murder mystery aspect, while definitely not predictable, was a little odd. It was just too short a book to try and incorporate so many different storylines. There were lots of parts of this book that I would give 5 stars (the messages, creativity, super deep lines buried in the whimsy), but all put together it just didn’t work for me.
P.S. I am going to be starting up Favorite Friday again this week! The topic is “favorite trope” if anyone would like to join in.
Intended audience: YA
Content warnings: murder, transphobia