Where the Drowned Girls Go by Seanan McGuire
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This seventh book in the Wayward Children series continues the stories of the kids at Eleanor West's Home for Wayward Children. These are children who never fit in, with their families or their schools or their friends; and one day they found a door leading to an alternate world. These are worlds such as the Hooflands, where unicorns, centaurs and other magical hooved beings dwell; or Confection, where there are strawberry-soda seas and cookie-leaved trees; or the Moors, where there is a blood moon and vampire kings and the Drowned Gods, Cthulhu-like tentacled creatures that live in the seas.
But eventually these kids are not sure they want to stay, and they're rejected back to our world. Many of them spend the rest of their lives looking for their Doors again. Some of them find their way to Eleanor West's Home, where they are surrounded by people--including Eleanor herself--who know what they are going through.
However, there is another school, the Whitethorn Institute, where children go who want to forget their worlds, and remove the hold their worlds have on them. Whitethorn is a cruel, rigid, rules-bound place, and as our protagonist discovers, she may have chosen to go there....but it's not a place anyone should want to stay.
This continues the story of Cora Miller, taking up her storyline from book #4, Come Tumbling Down, and bringing in Regan Lewis, the protagonist of book #5, Across the Green Grass Fields. The background knowledge of those books adds to the story, but it isn't really necessary. After her visit to the Moors in book #4, Cora is desperate to get the Drowned Gods' hooks out of her. She begs to go to Whitethorn, where she hopes to forget, only to discover Whitethorn has its own secrets, and staying there may be worse than her current demons. We meet a number of new characters and find out just what Whitethorn's secret is. Cora manages to break away, bringing several new friends with her, and in the process she gains the strength of will to refute the Drowned Gods. But the person behind Whitethorn is an interesting new antagonist, and I hope he will play a role in this series' storyline going forward.
This is an exploration of the often heavy burden of expectations and roles society places on children, and the importance of staying true to one's own heart, no matter what others think. The Wolcott twins of the second and fourth books and their fascinating, terrifying world of the Moors are my favorite in the series, but I think Cora is coming in second.
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