Trigger warning for references to eating disorders, bullying, and suicide.
Where the Drowned Girls Go, by Seanan McGuire, is the latest outstanding volume in the Wayward Children series (a series I can’t praise enough). Each entry in the series features one or more teens who found a door where there wasn’t supposed to be one. These doors whisked them away to a strange world where oceans can be made of strawberry soda or the horses talk or the dead waltz. Cora’s world transformed her into a mermaid. Now that’s she back in the “real” world, Cora is having a hard time adjusting. Things get worse after another trip through the doors.
Cora is one of several students at Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children, there to find a way to make peace with leaving a place that felt more like home than their actual homes. Before Cora was a mermaid, she was bullied for being overweight. Nothing she would do would get rid of fat that genetics wants to hold onto. But as a mermaid, Cora was perfect and beautiful. She had been making progress at Eleanor’s school, but she takes another trip through the doors to help her friends, an encounter with the Drowned Gods of the Moors makes it impossible for Cora to relax. Her only option, she feels, is to turn to Eleanor’s competitor at the Whitethorn Institute. Unlike Eleanor, who works with her students to help them adjust while keeping alive the hope that their doors will return for them, Whitethorn pushes its students to forget that there are other worlds and doors.
As soon as Cora arrives at Whitethorn, she knows she’s made a mistake. Whitethorn is about conformity. It’s about misery. It’s about erasing everything that’s unique about the students who come there. What I love about this series is that it celebrates quirks and heroism and individuality—not forcing square pegs into round holes—but in a way that’s honest about the costs that have to be paid. I wish these books had been around when I was younger because I think they’re among the best coming-of-age stories I’ve ever read.
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley, for review consideration.