Nancy is the newest arrival at Eleanor West's Home for Wayward Children--in reality, children like Nancy, who have experienced unreality in the form of fantasy-like alternate worlds. They stumbled through doorways that shouldn't have been there, and found themselves in worlds where they felt more at home than they ever had in their "real" homes.
Nancy spent time in the Halls of the Dead, learning stillness, silence, and patience. Nancy's roommate, Sumi, spent time in a "high nonsense" world and is in love with a Candy Corn farmer who is now, she assumes, lost to her. Kade sojourned in Faerie, and was thrown out when they realized he was only biologically female; Kade is a transgender boy. Jack (Jacqueline) and Jill (Jillian) are identical twins who spent time in a horror movie come to life, where Jill fell in love with a vampire and Jack trained to be a Mad Scientist. They all hope to get home again, and they all know their chances are really, really low. But at least they're among people who understand, people they can trust.
Until students start dying. Sumi is killed and her very talented hands are stolen. A girl whose gift is her exceptional eyes is killed and her eyes taken out--very carefully.
Nancy is the new girl, and her roommate was the first killed. Jack is a Mad Scientist. Christopher carries a bone flute with him, and talks about bones dancing. Tension and suspicion rise rapidly, and Miss West and all her students are afraid that authorities will find out and close down the school. They have to find the killer themselves, before they can't hide what's happening anymore.
This is a beautifully well-done story, with very subtle and persuasive character development. It's scary the extent to which I recognize these kids. I swear, I grew up with some of them. They are very much real teenagers, of the kind who don't fit in. Their not fitting in is less the result of their time in imaginary lands, than the cause of it.
It's just a wonderfully compelling story. Recommended.
I bought this book.