There's a long tradition of stories about children who stumble into another world, a fantastic world that works in completely different ways from our world. The children follow a talking rabbit down a rabbit hole or walk through the back of an old wardrobe or are swept up by a tornado and dropped onto an evil witch. At the end of the story, the child returns to our world a little wiser, but none the worse for wear. Seanan McGuire's Every Heart a Doorway, recently given a Nebula award for Best Novella, plays with and expands on this tradition, and the results are wonderful and frightening.
Eleanor West's Home for Wayward Children is a boarding school and sanctuary for children who have gone into other worlds and returned, only to find they've changed in ways that make it difficult to fit in with their families and with normal children. Their bodies work differently or their senses are supernaturally heightened or they know things children shouldn't know. They've been captives of fairy queens or servants of Gothic mad scientists or married to rulers of one of the many underworlds. Some children are relieved to be back, even if they don't fit in anymore, while others desperately want to get back to their other world, even when the other world was a torment. Nancy has recently come back from a strange other world and is a new arrival at Miss West's school. She has a hard enough time getting used to being back in our world and being at a new school, but when a fellow student goes missing, things get much more complicated.
I love this story and the Nebula is well-deserved. Every Heart a Doorway is lyrical, beautiful, creepy, and entrancing. McGuire packs an impressive amount of setting and character in a short novel. Almost like the book is a rabbit hole that leads to a much larger, much stranger world.