The first in a novella series best characterized as post-portal fantasy: What happens after the rabbit hole spits you back out?
One day, Nancy found a door in her basement that led to a pomegranate grove. Following that path, she spent years in blissful quiet and perfect stillness in the Halls of the Dead, serving its Lord and Lady. But now she’s back in our world, and her distressed parents don’t know how to cope with a daughter who refuses to admit where she really went, only dresses in drab colors, and refuses to date boys. Fortunately, Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children exists for boys and girls like Nancy; it’s a place where stories like hers are believed and young people learn how to cope with their feelings of loss, even as they all desperately search for a way back to that other place. Nancy is a bit overwhelmed by her fellow students, returnees from nonsensical lands constructed of sugar, rule-based fairylands, gothic moorlands inhabited by vampires and mad scientists, and sky-based societies where everyone runs on rainbows. Her sense of disorientation only increases when someone starts brutally murdering the students and staff at the school, and Nancy’s experiences with the dead make her a suspect. McGuire (Chaos Choreography, 2016, etc.) provides answers, or at least valid-seeming speculations, for anyone who’s ever wondered how Susan really felt after she was barred from Narnia and if Alice managed to become a proper Victorian young lady after her return from Wonderland. McGuire understands and has true compassion (never pity) for outcasts and outliers while also making it clear that being a misfit doesn’t mean you’ll necessarily get along with all the other misfits, who don’t fit for different reasons. Her depiction of teen interactions is believably prickly.
Thoughtfully and poignantly wonders if, or hopes that, you can go home again, depending on what you define as home.