Book Review: Every Heart a Doorway

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. 

Happy reading!

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.

Rating: 3/5
Pacing: fast
Intended audience: YA
Content warnings: murder, transphobia

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27 thoughts on “Book Review: Every Heart a Doorway

  1. The messages in this series are always amazing and well developed /delivered. I really enjoyed the first two books, they worked for me but I can totally feel what you are saying here! The third one wasn’t so good for me, I didn’t enjoyed it as much as the previous ones, but I loved the message of it and I think it is a well worth reading for the message alone!

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  2. Aww. It’s too bad you didn’t enjoy this one more. I actually really LOVE the entire series, but “Every Heart” is my least favorite installment. I feel like the other novellas are considerably better. I don’t know if you plan to continue on to the second book, but I hope you do. It stars Jack — my personal favorite character. 🙂

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  3. I love this series, but I can definitely see where you’re coming from with this. I came back to Every Heart a Doorway after reading the second and third books, so the introductions to everything felt a little like early installment weirdness.

    Each of the even numbered books in the series covers the time a character spent in another world though, those might be more your thing.

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  4. This was such an interesting review, it’s a pity you didn’t enjoy it but you’ve really made me wanna pick it up!

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  5. “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.”

    This is literally such a perfect line; I could use it to describe a million books! Lovely post, and though you didn’t enjoy it, I like how you said why you didn’t too—often people just arbitrarily say they don’t enjoy a book. I’m still going to pick this one up, however!

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  6. I read this back in December and absolutely loved it. I get where you’re coming from though – the novella length and murder mystery don’t quite mesh but I loved it so much anyway I still just gave it 5 stars for the message and the characters (I really appreciated the asexual rep as someone who is asexual). I really want to continue reading the series an am so annoyed I can’t find them in Irish book stores!

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    1. I tend to rate my books on enjoyability above all else, but I totally agree that I was in love with the messages/rep! That’s why I didn’t feel a rating did it justice. I felt, even if it wasn’t the most enjoyable, there was a lot of value to the story outside of it. Plus, the things that made it less enjoyable for me was just the type of story it was. It wasn’t that there was anything “wrong” with it per se

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      1. I get it. I wonder also if it’s also just the type of story best experienced as a whole, as in by reading the rest of the series just because it’s so much about the characters verses the plot…guess I’ll have to read the rest of the series to find out!

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  7. i can definitely agree on not being able to rate books sometimes, because you simply don’t know what to give them!! i’m sorry you didn’t enjoy it as much as you thought it would, but it definitely sounds interesting!! lovely review ❤️

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  8. I’ve been so excited to see for myself how this book turns out because there have just been so many differing opinions. I love Seanan McGuire. Thank you for the interesting take on it and for sharing! ☺

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  9. I’m glad you’re trying this series out! I’m planning to read Across the Green Grass Fields soon.

    I agree with you about stars not doing a book justice. I’ve enjoyed this series overall, though I’ve never gone back to read the first book. I do remember feeling like I didn’t know enough about the characters to care very deeply about them at first, but the later books give a lot more insight into different characters’ backstory.

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  10. I’ve had Every Heart a Doorway on my reading list for a while, but I keep forgetting about it. I have to admit, I’m a pretty big fan of rational characters, so maybe this book wouldn’t be my favorite. I may still try it just in case, but at least now I don’t feel so bad about putting off reading it.

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  11. I love reading reviews for this book. I didn’t really like it, mostly because of the randomness but also because of a few other things. I just couldn’t really connect to it, I guess.
    I like what you were saying about the randomness. I think it might have been nicer if there was more explanation in it about the worlds in general. I feel like it could have been good.
    Love the review. 🙂

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