My Rating: 4 stars
Many thanks to Macmillan-Tor and NetGalley for the ARC! This book will be released next week on Tuesday January 4 2022!
We are back with Cora for this installment of the Wayward Children series, and she is having a difficult time recovering from her encounter with the Drowned Gods of the Moors. Due to this, she decides to transfer from Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children to the sister school for children who want to forget their experiences: the Whitethorn Institute. This second school has been lurking in the background since book one, and I was excited to finally get a peek at it. It is the absolute antithesis of Eleanor’s school with constant supervision, strict rules, and abusive discipline measures. McGuire does a great job crafting this sinister and claustrophobic setting and depicting how it affects the students.
The Whitethorn students we are introduced to were easily my favorite part of the book. Regan, main character of Across the Green Grass Plains, plays a major role, and I was happy to see her again. She’s very different; the school has broken her, and it’s heartbreaking. But the contrast between her character here and her character in the previous book highlights the school’s horrors. I also found the new characters intriguing. Some struggle against the school’s oppressive rules while others adapt and become just as cruel. The two characters that interested me the most, the nameless girl and Rowena, are actually in the latter category. The nameless girl in particular has a great story, and I would love to read a full account of it. I hope we’ll see more of them both in later books.
Cora herself also has a wonderful arc. McGuire handles her trauma well, showing just how debilitating it is and how it sucks the joy out of things Cora loves. Due to all this, her request to switch schools and try to forget feels understandable and realistic even though we, as the readers, know it’s a horrible idea. I enjoyed the transformation Cora goes through during her time at the Whitethorn Institute. I also appreciated learning more of her backstory, particularly her struggle with an eating disorder. We know from the previous books that Cora is fat, and here McGuire gives us a window into what led her to attempt suicide and end up in the Trenches. This is the first time I’ve seen a character with a restrictive eating disorder portrayed as anything other than extremely skinny. It’s unfortunately common that people struggling with anorexia get ignored if their weight isn’t considered “low enough.” I am just so thankful for McGuire touched on this topic and provided representation that has long been missing in our media.
I did notice that this book is not as self-contained as some of the others. I knew that the odd numbered books build on each other and require knowledge of the previous books (as opposed to the even numbered ones, which work as standalones), but the main plot has always been resolved by the end. That’s not the case here. McGuire leaves us with a large threat looming, and I assume this plot will continue into book nine and maybe even beyond. (Based on the title of book eight, it seems we may get the story of Cora’s roommate, Antoinette, in the meantime.) This isn’t a bad thing, and I’m actually quite looking forward to this overarching plot. But it was a noticeable shift in the series for me.
Overall, Where the Drowned Girls Go is an excellent addition to an equally excellent series. I highly recommend it, and I can’t wait for the next book.