• The Good: A new school for children who travel; friends who accept you for who you are
  • The Bad: Not as imaginative as previous installments
  • The Literary: Portal fantasies for the wayward and the cast-aside

There’s a special school for children who fall through doors to fantasy lands but eventually find themselves back in the normal world. Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children is safe and friendly, and it acknowledges the magic of other worlds. But there’s another school, a sister school, and everyone knows things run differently at the Whitethorn Institute. Cora decides she needs a new direction and begs to be transferred to Whitethorn, but she soon learns that the waters on the other side are not always bluer.

I love this book series about children finding their doors, and each installment of the series focuses on a new adventure in one of the protagonists’ special worlds. The world building is always so imaginative, with strong representation and themes of acceptance, but the plots can be repetitive, so Where the Drowned Girls Go is a refreshing story in the series—it does enter a hell world of sorts, but it’s a school in our own dimension.

Whitethorn is a place for forgetting the fantasy and learning to adapt to the real world. It’s harsh and strict and impersonal, a setting rife with critiques of institutionalized learning and the power imbalances that set up bullying and abuse, especially for children who are different in any way. Cora makes a few new friends along the way, and together they uncover a secret about the headmaster, the door he once went through, and how he’s been running Whitethorn all these years.

Highly recommended (the entire series) for fans of sweet fantasy and found families!