Read an ARC from NetGalley
Content warning: fatshaming, fatphobia, bullying
Cora’s door led to a world of Drowned Gods and mermaids. She returns to Eleanor West’s school still haunted by her experience and requests a transfer to the cruel Whitehorn Institute, where normalcy via suppression and repression is the rule of those halls. I found this entry much darker than those that came before it in ways that are less fantastical than eeriness of the worlds behind the doors.
This is an entry in which it is required to have read previous entries, despite how the back cover summary sounds. For the most relevant contextualization, Beneath the Sugar Sky (Wayward Children #3) and Across the Green Grass Fields (Wayward Children #6) are essential.
The darkness in this novella comes from the oppression of Whitehorn academy. The rules are slightly different depending on the world the student came from, but the matrons and even one student aren’t allowed names or even a sense of individuality. The goal posts for graduating shift, and it’s a heavy read. I truly loved the evolution of Cora characterization compared to her introduction in Beneath the Sugar Sky. Because this story is hers, we get a firmer sense of her wants and connections to the girls around her. I love her friendship with a special guest in particular.
Despite the school’s efforts to keep them apart, friendship does blossom among the female classmates. Seeing the girls come together at the end is filled with such compassion. I really love stories where girls start off antagonistic because of the system manipulating them all but then find the camaraderie necessary to tear it all down. Ultimately, it is a hopeful story, but the heartbreak and oppression hurts in way that feels too true to real life.