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Thirteen Doorways, Wolves Behind Them All

4.08  ·  Rating details ·  1,481 ratings  ·  375 reviews

National Book Award 2019 Finalist!

From the author of Printz Medal winner Bone Gap comes the unforgettable story of two young women—one living, one dead—dealing with loss, desire, and the fragility of the American dream during WWII.

When Frankie’s mother died and her father left her and her siblings at an orphanage in Chicago, it was supposed to be only temporary—just

Kindle Edition, 383 pages
Published October 1st 2019 by Balzer + Bray
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Average rating 4.08  · 
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 ·  1,481 ratings  ·  375 reviews

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The more I read this novel, the more I grew disenchanted by it. It’s the kind of book that tries to tackle many things, but ends up failing at giving justice to all of them. It opened with a ghost narrating a story of Frankie, a girl abandoned by her father in pre-WWII Chicago orphanage. Life there was rough, nuns were cruel, etc. This part I really liked and if the book stayed with Frankie, I would have liked the story much more. But Frankie’s story got diluted by the ghost drama, detours into ...more
Erin Kelly
Jul 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Let’s talk about how good this book is. The writing is gorgeous, the story compelling. Our narrator is a GHOST telling the story of an orphan—but also revealing her own tragic story in the process.

But the book is about more than that. It’s about what it means to be a woman, then and now. It’s about the secrets we are forced to keep and the ones we impose on ourselves. It’s about forgiveness and justice. It’s about survival and loneliness.

Beautifully written and wonderfully told. XO
I haven't been blown away by a lot of YA this year -- it's been fine, but not spectacular.

This was, however, spectacular. Smart and savvy and clever and creative and powerful. A ghost story wrapped in a story of an orphan during World War II Chicago, this is a story about all of the doors hiding wolves girls have to face in the world. The wolves are all different, but all the same. It's also a story of love, of passion, of human connection.

Beautifully written and lush and evocative.

More soon.
Jerrie (redwritinghood)
I finished this yesterday and have been wavering on how I want to rate it. It was a good look at the treatment of young women and girls in turn of the century America as well as the racism at that time. I’m not sure I understood the point of the ghost narrator other than to further emphasize the struggles women faced during this time period. Those two parallel story lines were more distracting for me, however, and I would have preferred a story that focused on one or the other.
Jul 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The story of two girls: one living, one dead, separated by class and time but both struggling with what it means to be a woman in this world and what it means to be human and alive. Both are punished for their sexuality and suffer violence at the hands of those who should have kept them safe, but both have rebellious streaks and push back against the forces that limit their power. It's the story of unwanted girls mistreated girls abandoned girls who refuse to accept their fate and who know in ...more
Oct 30, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Frankie, her sister Toni and her brother Vito are all living in a Chicago orphanage run by nuns in the last years of the Great Depression and through WWII. We follow Frankie's story as she grows up and out of the orphanage and as she's observed by the ghost of a girl who died from the Spanish Flu in 1918.

The hardship that Frankie has to endure, first with the nuns, and then with America on a war footing, not to mention a father who's neglectful at best and abusive at worst, makes for a
Frequently heartbreaking, this excellent story by Laura Ruby left me both wrecked and hopeful. I loved this story of Frankie. She, older brother Vito and younger sister Toni are left by their father in an orphanage upon the scandalous death of their mother. There, though it was not a particularly loving environment, Frankie, Vito and Toni had their friends and routines. Then their father takes Vito out of the orphanage with him after remarrying, leaving Frankie and Toni behind.
There's also a
Stunning and strange, at once luscious and harsh, with the contrast of the narrator's descriptions of ghosts in rich gowns with long flowing hair and the orphans she is drawn to with their rough plain dresses and cropped locks. This is a story about love, and identity, about family, and friendships. An unexpected story, sad and glorious. I hate to go into detail, because I don't want to spoil anything. But if you, like me, read and loved Bone Gap, read this immediately.
Shannon (It Starts At Midnight)
You can find the full review and all the fancy and/or randomness that accompanies it at It Starts at Midnight

Thirteen Doorwaysis such a genuinelygorgeousbook, I hardly know where to begin. Look, it's gut-wrenching, let's get that out of the way. I mean, it's orphans during WWII, you're probably not expecting sunshine and roses, right? The thing is, as hard as it is at times to read, there is a really inspirational aspect to it as well. It left me hopeful, that maybe humanity isn't doomed. Our
Nov 17, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historical
I've liked the other books Laura Ruby has written (Bone Gap, York series), but this one not so much. This is a coming of age story about an adolescent girl growing up in an orphanage in Chicago during World War II. Frankie, her brother and sister are abandoned by their father after the death of her mother, as he marries another woman with her own family. There is an interwoven ghost story, some themes of adolescent love, war, abuse by the nuns, and discrimination against women. Basically, too ...more
Samm | Sassenach the Book Wizard
I don't know if it's my tastes or the content being published more now but I've been reading SO many books in the past year involving religious institutions that are actually pretty analytical of them. Some more than others but still a pretty interesting shift.

The switching of POVs between our alive character and our dead character didn't totally work for me all the time. They were going through a lot of similar things but I didn't find their voices to be all that different from each other. At
Jessica Woodbury
This book is beautiful and sad, full of surrealism and yet fully grounded in real life. I will often say things like, "I don't need any more WWII historical fiction," but books like this remind me that I just need books that take their period seriously, that open it up to you and make it feel absolutely real. I enjoyed BONE GAP but I liked THIRTEEN DOORWAYS even more.

The ghost-as-narrator device still isn't used all that often, which I think is for the best. If you're going to use it you need to
Anna Bright
Oct 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ya, paranormal
this one’s a finalist for the National Book Award, and for good reason. Frankie’s father leaves her and her sister, Toni, at an orphanage to be sure they’ll be cared for. but then he shows up one day, and he’s married, and he’s leaving town—without them. Frankie and Toni are alone in the world with their friends and the ghosts that watch over one. this one gave me chills all over my entire body. I highly recommend.
Kate ☀️ Olson
This book blew me away because it did the previously unthinkable ~ it made me love a story narrated by a GHOST. Excellent and original historical fiction with multiple storylines based on the author’s MIL’s real childhood. Well, real childhood plus ghosts ...more
Jun 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When I wasn’t reading this, I was thinking about it, it’s that good. I love a good historical fiction (which this was!), but when you throw ghosts into it I’m SOLD. 10/10 WOULD RECOMMEND!

I cared about every character — I was angry, sad, elated for them. I cried and laughed and grinned, and at times was thoroughly creeped out (which I love!). Frankie is such a beautifully nuanced character, and I loved her wittiness and humor. I wanted to shake Toni at times, and I cannot tell you how deeply I
Sep 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Even if you didn't like Bone Gap, I am absolutely begging you to give Thirteen Doorways a try.

Granted, I loved Bone Gap, but I recognize the magical-realism-lite vibe isn't for everyone. This book is similarly dreamy and beautiful, but it's grounded in real stories and histories. Every character is vibrant and full, and while I'm not normally a huge fan of YA historical fiction, particularly WWII, the perspective is fresh and unique. I absolutely adored this. It's gorgeously written and full of
Dec 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: jb-edited
Wow. This doesn’t beat BONE GAP (my favorite book of 2015!!) for me but I loved the writing in this one and the balance of paranormal with historical fiction.

I think this would be a good fit for those who enjoyed ORPHAN TRAIN by Christine Baker Kline but want a younger read (OT is adult). I relished in learning about orphanages in the 1930’s and 1940’s Midwest, something I had no idea about.

Bravo Laura Ruby bravo.
Nov 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019-read, giveaways
I won an ARC of this book in a Goodreads giveaway. Historical fiction isn't a genre I gravitate toward, but something about this story had me interested enough to enter to win a copy.

It was fantastic. This is a story about girls, about loss, about love, about trauma, and about life. The balance between the two protagonists, whose stories are carefully interwoven and mirror each other in a lot of ways, is exceptional. The relationships feel real and complicated without being lost in the message
Many thanks to EdelweissPlus and the publisher for providing me with a DRC of this title to review. All opinions are my own.

If you had asked me at about 10% into this book if I was going to keep going, or even what I thought of it in general, I would have told you it was DANGEROUSLY close to being in my small DNF pile. The only thing that kept me going were: a. the author (I LOVED Bone Gap ), b. other reviews who mentioned a similar struggle getting going, and c. the buzz surrounding this book
I had to think hard about whether to tag this YA, because it didn't feel particularly YA-y to me, so I didn't. One reason for that is that it felt to me that it had a very slow start, with my interest only starting to pick up around page 100, more than 1/4 in the book. For the first 100 pages, there was plenty of atmosphere, and things happened, and things were recalled, but neither of the two main characters seemed to have much of a goal. The teen ghost narrator seemed to just kind of float ...more
Oct 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I finished this minutes ago and I need to write down how it made me feel. At first I held this book and tried to sleep but I couldn't, so here I am.

This book is ferociously beautiful, a supernova explosion of the most gorgeous, compelling, fierce writing - ever, in my memory of reading. It's a well-written work that hadn't particularly shaken me until the last 50 or so pages, but holy hell (apt). It's the most gratifying and emboldening ending.

I just love it. I have no words.
Nov 20, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5 stars
I love Laura Ruby's writing. In 13 doorways she transports readers back in time and builds a layered story filled with mystery, lies, and hungry characters. It is a ghost's story. Even though Pearl died in 1918, she is still present in 1940s Chicago as a ghost. One of her main "haunts" is a German Catholic orphanage where Frankie and her siblings have been left by their father during the depression. Through Pearl we learn about Frankie, about her family and her hopes, which in turn
Dec 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Best YA book I've read this year! So rich and beautifully written, so deliciously layered and complex that it begs for a second reading. Laura Ruby has soared to new heights with this novel that is part ghost story, part historical fiction, and all literary brilliance that touches the deepest part of the reader's heart!
Bang Bang Books
Oct 05, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I loved Bone Gap so I was very excited to read Ruby's next YA novel. I was expecting something a bit deeper in meaning and thought so that's why it's a 4.25 and not higher.

Issues I Had With the Book
* I Wasn't Expecting That-I wasn't expecting a coming of age story. I don't like this genre because I tend to be bored. By the time I figured it out, I was 75% in. Because Bone Gap was so weird, I kept waiting for this book to be weird and to suddenly reveal something amazing but no, it was just a
Nov 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A ghost who died in 1918 watches over and tells the story of Frankie, abandoned in the Guardian Orphanage in Chicago. Laura Ruby has such a good way of putting words together. This story is complicated and tender, sad and beautiful. Also, the title is so dramatic and fun to say. I was utterly enthralled and even more taken with it after learning - at the end - that it is based on the life story of Ruby’s mother-in-law.
This is a story about young women who dare to hope in the face of life's smothering difficulties. This is a story about injustice, betrayal, pain, and loss, but this is also a story about friendship, love, laughter, and loyalty. Most of all, this is a story about persevering even while knowing it would be easier to simply give up.
Oct 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
/5. There is nothing like a supernatural story when the weather turns chilly, and this In World War II era Chicago, Frankie and her siblings are left at an orphanage by her father. She thinks it is temporary, but as the months stretch into years she must find a way to come to terms with a shattered America and her fractured life. Watching the entire time, a ghost with a past she cannot face is rooting for Frankie, while begging her to not make the same choices she made. Haunting and ...more
DNF at pg 98. This concept is so interesting, and Frankie is a fun character, but I could NOT get into this...and I really tried. I recognize I’m in the minority and do plan to try again at another time, but I had a hard time getting invested in the characters and outcomes...
Carina Olsen
Sep 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Reading this book was painful. Every part of it made my heart ache. But oh my god how badly I loved it. This entire book was perfection. It ruined me. And my heart is still racing after having finished reading it. It was simply every kind of good. Horrible but so amazing. I am giving five stars to this beyond incredible book.

Because there is so much I have to share about this story. The writing was all kinds of perfect. I loved being able to connect to the story and this world. And gosh, the
Yet she had her quiet days, her pensive ones, those days when she dug through her memories, trying to find the truth at the bottom of them. As if the truth were a jewel you could unearth and hold in your hand, as if the truth wasn't more like something you'd find under a rock, gray and faceless and squirming away from the light.


I wanted to like this book so much more than I did - the prose is beautiful, the story is weird but wonderful and it's feminist as fuck. But something about it just
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Raised in the wilds of suburban New Jersey, Laura Ruby now lives in Chicago with her family. Her short fiction for adults has appeared in various literary magazines, including Other Voices, The Florida Review, Sycamore Review and Nimrod. A collection of these stories, I'M NOT JULIA ROBERTS, was published by Warner Books in January 2007. Called "hilarious and heart-wrenching" by People and "a ...more
“Frankie wouldn't always let herself remember these things. Most of the time, she didn't think about them at all. Yet she had her quiet days, her pensive ones, those days when she dug through her memories, trying to find the truth at the bottom of them. As if the truth were a jewel yo could unearth and hold i your hand, as if the truth wasn't more like something you'd find under a rock, gray and faceless and squirming away from the light.” 0 likes
“She flew higher and higher into the plush and generous darkness, the long forgiving night, until she slipped through a star, a doorway, and heaven welcomed her in.” 0 likes
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