Gather 'round, boys and girls, while I tell you a lovely and empowering tale of a girl who was enslaved to a vampire, a girl who was forced to become the equivalent of Igor, an ace girl who was forced to stand perfectly still for days/weeks at a time so she wouldn't piss off her undead overlord, a trans boy who got to fight in some sort of war for a place that didn't want him because of his trans cooties, a Latino boy who lived in a real life Dia de las Muertas (because where else would a Latino want to be?), and a girl who...did something...somewhere...? Um, jazz hands? *shrugs*
Listen to their fascinating stories that they barely even tell you about while they pine away wishing they were back in their nightmare fuel worlds because apparently this is where their hearts wanted to be more than their own lives. But this isn't Narnia. Have no fear! There will be no actual adventures or grand battles or anything resembling bonding or friendship! Nope. Instead, you'll get a bunch of teens whining about not being able to butcher people anymore. Or not being able to drink pomegranate juice anymore. Because apparently we don't have that on Earth. Or not being able to live amongst the spiders anymore because I guess she doesn't have a cupboard under the stairs. Or... seriously, WTF is wrong with these people?!
I started skimming around 45% because the pacing was as slow as Nancy's gait, and I was trying to find anything resembling actual exposition, but it just wasn't here. There was an attempt at a murder mystery -
that the school's principal covers up so the kids wouldn't be sent back to their families - and she makes the kids cover it up for her.
So that happens. And if I had known this was going to become an attempt at a horror-inspired murder mystery, I could've told you who would be the first victim, because those racial and gender tropes just refuse to die.
Ok, I admit, a couple of these kids do have family lives that sound pretty awful. I can see why they'd want to do a Harry Potter or Tom Riddle and stay at Warped Hogwarts forever. But the others just sound like they're "misunderstood" and oh, isn't that horrible! No one gets them! How can they possibly be expected to go on?!!!
Well, I'm one of the ones who doesn't get them. Maybe it's because I didn't hate my childhood growing up. Maybe it's because the author does next to nothing to actually explain anything. And advocates running away from your problems. Not that there aren't some instances where running is totally valid - to save your life, for instance. But I just didn't get the sense that was the case for most of the kids here. And I really got zero explanation for why they would prefer these nightmare worlds they fell into. There's a sort of explanation that whatever door opens for you is the one that you need based on your heart's desire or something. But WHY? Like,
one girl doesn't want to be the pretty twin her whole life, so she goes to a world where she gets to slaughter dogs and harvest their organs for science - so she can be smart. Um... you know, we have science here too, right? And you don't have to slaughter dogs to study it. IJS.
At around 80% I got tired of skimming looking for "good" parts (there weren't any) and just skipped all the way to end to see who the murderer was - not like it was particularly hard to guess - and kind of skimmed the end to see how it was wrapped up.
This was just... a mess, y'all. Terrible structure, terrible exposition, terrible characters, terrible worldbuilding.
Yay diversity! But boo to everything else. Can't recommend this one.