Reviewing the story from a personal/subjective perspective, rather than formally assessing its structure and so forth:
I wanted a more ambiguous ending.
As someone who knows what it's like to get drawn into another world and wish I could live in it, like many of you and assumedly many of this book's readers, I empathized with Nancy's yearning to return to the Land of the Dead. At first, I wanted her to be able to go back. But as the story progressed and McGuire made me care about her, I decided I wanted her to be happy, and it mattered less whether that meant staying or returning. Then we get all this material about how Nancy develops friendships and starts to care about the fate of the school and how she could see herself helping future generations of kids with their trauma, perhaps in ace-romantic partnership with Kade -- and she throws it all away when the door reappears.
On one level: What lesson does that teach us poor reality-dwellers? That we can't be happy as we grow up unless we can literally find a way into the books/movies/shows we love(d)?
I wish that her internal conflicts had been developed more and that we'd ended on her looking at the door and trying to decide what to do.
This book was supposedly in part about adolescence -- about changing and growing -- about losing something from childhood, and either mourning that or gaining something new in coming of age. I wish there'd been more about the stillness slipping from her grasp; maybe more about the doorways as youthful imagination or about the returns to reality as having to 'put away childish things' (which I suppose makes the actual ending a refutation of the idea that adults shouldn't enjoy immersive fantasy). I dunno: something, because the conclusion didn't feel as relieving as it ought to, but instead circular. As it is, it's more like the coming-of-age arcs happened before the story even started -- since the worlds the kids were drawn to helped them discover and grow into their truest selves -- and then what's left to tell? Maybe if the school had been for (pre)teens who didn't fit in at home or in the world at large and were training to find and make it through the doorway to the land that best suited them?
(The title of the book also made me think there was going to be some twist to the murder plot where the key to traveling lay somehow in the physical heart.)
That said, I did still enjoy the story. It was an easy read, especially after a nonfiction book I'd just inched through for professional stuff, and despite its flaws, such as the obvious/cardboard villain-y culprit and the missed opportunities for deeper character development and debate (such as the moral hierarchy of which kids ended up in which worlds), there were many parts that worked for me.
Originally posted at http://bironic.dreamwidth.org/356033.html, where there are comments.