Kinda wanted to put the book title as the post title, but that would feel like stealing; it's a great, great title.
Every Heart a Doorway, by Seanan Maguire, is another novella, this one about a school for children who have passed through portals to other lands and been sent back for one reason or another. When Alice comes home from Wonderland, or Dorothy from Oz, or any of the Pevensie children from Narnia, are they really going to be able to go on in the mundane world as though nothing had happened?
Nancy was gone for two years, living in the Land of the Dead, learning to stay perfectly still and become like a statue. She loved it there, so it broke her heart when she found herself at home again, and it was only worse when her parents wanted her to be the same old Nancy she had been before, to "recover" from an "ordeal" that they didn't believe and couldn't understand.
What she finds at Eleanor West's Home for Wayward Children is not what she was looking for--a doorway back to the Land of the Dead--but it is comfort, of a sort--the comfort of being understood and recognized, even by people who are very different from you.
The story is structured around a murder mystery, which is good because it adds momentum to what would otherwise be a really delightful pile of worldbuilding, but is also a bit weak, because the murderer keeps killing the interesting characters with whom I want to spend more time. I've read reviews that wish there wasn't a murder mystery, but I think I just wish there were fewer bodies--in such a short book, there weren't quite enough characters to spare.
I did love all the characters, and the depiction of the discomfort of living in a new place full of new people. The representation was great--characters are trans, asexual, and all kinds of other ways of being, and if these things are discussed in somewhat stiff language--the words that you'd use in writing rather than conversation--they are described (as far as I can tell) with accuracy and sympathy, and their experiences are there.
I just found out that there will be more books in this series, and I'm so excited. This is a world I want to revisit--I want to go to the sister school for children who want to forget they were ever gone; I want Miss Eleanor to find her way home. But mostly, I feel so, so sorry for the spider queen.