A confession: When I first saw the cover of this book, I thought it was a memoir or biography of actress Cara Delevingne. That’s because her name comprises the largest words on the cover, printed in gargantuan block letters that dwarf the book’s actual title – Mirror Mirror – and co-writer Rowan Coleman’s name.
OK, not a good sign. Let’s face it: Many of these kinds of books are usually cheap cash grabs that rely on the popularity of their celebrity author’s names to sell as many copies as possible. So I picked up Mirror Mirror with trepidation, hoping that it would at least be a passable read.
And in the end, I was pleasantly surprised. For Delevingne and Coleman’s book actually proved to be quite an engrossing novel. Its characters are interesting, and its relatively fast, intriguing story proved quite fun to read.
Yes, it’s plot is patchy in parts and its ending could be developed a little more. But overall, as a way to spend a few hours reading, you can’t go wrong with this young adult novel.
Not quite a fairytale
Contrary to what some people may assume, Mirror Mirror is not a retelling of Snow White, although it borrows a few motifs and images from the fairytale.
Instead, it is a young adult thriller about four modern-day British teenagers, namely Red, Leo, Rose and Naomi. Each of them has a troubled background; Red, for example, has an alcoholic mother and a largely absent father, while Leo’s brother is a violent criminal.
Music provides an escape for them – the four form a band at school called Mirror Mirror, and dream of one day escaping their troubled lives. Things take a dreadful turn, however, after Naomi suddenly goes missing. She’s later discovered half-dead in the Thames river, and falls into a coma.
Her friends are shocked, of course, with Red in particular becoming obsessed with finding out who did this to her. She discovers that Naomi had a secret life and, to make things worse, whoever was behind Naomi’s fate is still at large and must be stopped before more tragedy happens.
Crafting a tale
This book is the first collaboration between Delevingne and Coleman, who do a good job at spinning a tight, mostly captivating thriller. Delevingne probably needs no introduction. For non-movie fans wondering who she is, she’s an English supermodel and actress who has had roles in films such as Anna Karenina (2012), Suicide Squad (2016) and Valerian And The City Of A Thousand Planets (2017).
Coleman is a bestselling author whose works include We Are All Made Of Stars (2015) and The Summer Of Impossible Things (2017). Under the name Rook Hastings, she wrote the Weirdsville series in 2010, Nearly Departed and Immortal Remains.
Part mystery, part coming-of-age youth drama, Mirror Mirror feels a little like Patricia Cornwell mixed with John Green. (Coincidentally, one of Delevingne’s best known films is Paper Towns, which was based on a 2008 book by Green.) It’s atmosphere is dark, and it touches on very serious themes like abuse, suicide, sexuality, addiction and sexual assault. Thankfully, though, it never gets too heavy for its target young audience.
The mystery of what happens to Naomi is an intriguing one, and although some of its developments are a little unbelievable, managed to keep this reader hooked.
The best part of this book is its characters, who are all mostly sympathetic and fleshed out quite nicely. They don’t always make the best decisions – they are troubled teens after all! – and Rose, the most emotional of the main four, can sometimes do very frustrating things. But, ultimately, all the characters feel real and stick in the memory.
But the book’s best character isn’t one of the main four; it’s Ashira, Naomi’s sister, a confident girl who’s a whiz with technology. Yes, she’s written a bit too capable sometimes (verging close to Mary Sue territory at times!) but her can-do attitude is quite a contrast to the mopey main characters, and sometimes I wished she was the narrative’s main character.
Another interesting character is Gracie, Red’s younger sister – the relationship between the siblings is very touching.
One area where the book falls a bit short, however, is its twists, which are not very well-executed. The identity of the villain, for example, is revealed a bit too drastically. A bit more development or build-up would have given it more impact. This also results in an ending that feels a little bit rushed.
There’s also another twist regarding one of the main four characters that will probably take many readers by surprise. In some ways, calling it a twist is a bit misleading, as it’s not a new development; instead, you learn that something you assumed about this character has been completely wrong the whole time.
While this twist is executed very well (usually, twists of this nature can be spotted from kilometres away), it adds little to the story and seems to be there mainly for shock value.
One of the themes of Mirror Mirror is not to blindly judge people or make assumptions about them. There may be a lot happening beneath a person’s surface. And in a way, that applies to this book also. Yes, Delevingne may be most known for being a gorgeous film star, but that really shouldn’t be held against her. She and Coleman have definitely written a solid thriller.
Authors: Cara Delevigne and Rowan Coleman
Publisher: Harper, young adult fiction