(This review will have some spoilers, not anything detrimental to the storyline – but spoilers nonetheless, you have been warned. I would also like to take this opportunity to apologise for the below review, once I started writing I found a well of passion inside myself that I thought I’d ranted away long ago, but it has most definitely resurfaced. If you loved this book, please don’t take offence, and please don’t let my opinion change your feelings. This review is intended to show my own thoughts, and to get a different opinion out on the interweb – no harm intended)
Unlike most of my reviews, this is reviewing a book that I definitely didn’t read recently. In fact, I finished this book in August of this year. Obviously, this little blog of mine did not exist at that time, and I didn’t want to write reviews about books that weren’t fresh in my mind.
However, I have just logged on to Goodreads and have seen that Every Heart A Doorway has been nominated for the Best Fantasy book in 2016. (Spoiler alert: When I read this book I gave it 2/5 stars – and I thought I was being quite generous).
As my opinion seems to be drastically unpopular, I feel it’s my duty to get it out there and let you judge for yourselves.
Firstly, let’s talk about the characters. Most of my problems with this book are character driven. Firstly, the characters were very flat. I understand that Nancy is designed as a character with little personality, but to me, she was completely two-dimensional. I feel that McGuire tried to introduce some unique personality traits, but I don’t think it was very convincing. One such example is Nancy’s asexuality. You don’t read a lot of YA novels with an asexual protagonist (well, at least I don’t), and in this case, I don’t think it was a constructive part of the character. To me, it read that McGuire wanted to establish that this was not going to be a romance of any sort, she wasn’t going to fall for any of the other boys, it wasn’t that sort of book. That’s fine, it’s refreshing to read a YA without a strong romantic plotline. However, to me, this revelation didn’t fit into the context of the book. Not to mention that it lead to the inclusion of the extremely odd and uncomfortable masturbation discussion – it was the most random thing I’ve ever read (and I have marked creative writing from 11-year-old boys, I’ve read some pretty random stuff!)
Looking beyond Nancy at some of the secondary characters, it just seems to get worse. I found all the characters very stereotypical, there was a transgender boy, an unfeeling science nerd, an airy-fairy girly girl… you get the idea. The characters seemed to have only one personality trait, one couldn’t like science and music, or be transgender and play a sport. Despite their stereotyping, they couldn’t find a place in this world – which is hard to believe as the whole concept of stereotypes is that they are everywhere!
Nevermind the fact that the characters didn’t have any personality, 90% of the time we didn’t get a chance to know them, most of the characters were introduced on one page, and killed off a few pages later. This has always bugged me in books (and this is by no means the only perpetrator of this crime). How can you expect the reader to feel sympathy for a character when they haven’t gotten to know them, and the protagonist has absolutely no emotional response to the death?
Moving on from characters, let’s take a look at the doorways as a concept. Personally, I love the idea (weren’t expecting me to say that now were you?), I love the concept of these alternate worlds, and how every world is different. However, we barely even scratched the surface of the concepts potential. A prologue showing Nancy in her own world, or cut away pieces showing the supporting characters behind their doors would have drastically improved the world building of this story, not to mention how it would have assisted their character development.
The above change would have also helped with the length of the book. To me, trying to establish a fantasy world and cram in a murder mystery in a 174-page book is a little more than optimistic. Even an additional hundred pages would have allowed space for character development, world building, suspense – and all the other things that are essential to a good plot driven novel.
Overall, this book left me vastly disappointed, but that’s not entirely the fault of the book as my expectations were astronomically high after all it’s rave reviews. As I said, I gave it only 2/5 stars. One star for the book it could have been, with a plot line melding X-men and Alice in Wonderland. One star for the (at times) beautiful writing. However, overall the book left me frustrated. Yes, I probably will continue on in the series, as I’m hoping to get a little more from the sequel. Nevertheless, I definitely wouldn’t class this in my 2016 favourites.
(Sorry again to any of this books die hard fans, no offence intended!)
I’m interested to hear your thoughts, were you like me? Did you love the book in theory but were disappointed in the execution? Or did you just love it? Let me know down below!