Saturday, March 25, 2023

Mirror to Mirror

LaRocca, Rajani. Mirror to Mirror
March 21st 2023 by Quill Tree Books
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Chaya and Maya are twins who look identical but have very different personalities. Chaya is more outgoing, and Maya is utterly consumed with the idea that she has had seven years of bad luck because she broke a mirror as a child, on the day before her brother Neel was born prematurely. Maya not only stews and frets over everything, but she also presses her fingernail into her palm hard enough to draw blood when she is anxious. The twins father is very jovial and outgoing, but their mother is superstitious, worried, and withdrawn. Her own mother struggled with mental health issues, and the mother's actions cause a lot of friction between the parents. Maya hears them fighting and thinks that it is her fault, and when she confides in Chaya, Chaya wants to tell them about Maya's harried state. Maya then feels that she has to hide her distress even from her sister. The two both play piano, and when their teacher gives them a piece for a solo, only one twin can win. The piece's very name Spiegl im Spiegl ("mirror in the mirror") alarms Maya, and she feels that she can never measure up to her sister. Chaya is trying to forge her own identity, leaving the wind ensemble, dying a pink streak in her hair, and hanging out more with Anisa than Maya. The twins both feel bad that they are drifting apart, and they each have some ideas about how they reconnect, even considering applying to boarding schools. When summer approaches and they are set to spend six weeks at a music camp, they decide to make a bet and switch places for the summer. Maya adds a pink streak to her hair and tries out musical theater, and Chaya adheres to Maya's strict schedule. Maya feels that if she can just hang on until the seven years of bad luck is up, she'll be fine. Will the two  be able to fool everyone over the summer, and will they be able to resume their close relationship if Maya can have her issues of anxiety addressed?
Strengths: This is lyrically done, and while the novel is in free verse, there is a lot of poetic language. Not all novels in free verse manage this. Twin stories are always popular, and the inclusion of musical competition will appeal to readers who are involved in similar activities. There's a good deal of cultural connection in the story, and plenty of descriptions of delicious food as well. The link to genetic predisposition to mental health conditions is clear, and it was good when the family finally agrees to get Maya some help, especially since she is essentially cutting herself to relive anxiety. There are a growing number of stories that address anxiety in middle schoolers, like Dilloway's Five Things About Ava Andrews, Piontek's Better with Butter, Dee's Haven Jacobs Saves the Planet, Sumner's The Summer of June, Vivat's Frazzled, and Machias' Flight vs. Fight, plus pretty much everything Teri Libenson and Raina Telgemeier write. 
Weaknesses: There is a lot of repetition in the story, because Maya and Chaya both rehash their emotional states a lot. My readers usually like to read books about twins because it sounds like it would be fun to be a twin, but this book will show them that's not always the case. 
What I really think: This is a good choice for readers who like novels in verse and want to read about tweens who are interested in music or who suffer from anxiety. 

Ms. Yingling

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