Anna-Marie McLemore was born in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains and taught by their family to hear la llorona in the Santa Ana winds. They are the author of THE WEIGHT OF FEATHERS, a finalist for the 2016 William C. Morris Debut Award; 2017 Stonewall Honor Book WHEN THE MOON WAS OURS, which was longlisted for the National Book Award in Young People’s Literature; WILD BEAUTY, a Kirkus Best Book of 2017; and BLANCA & ROJA, a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice. DARK AND DEEPEST RED, a reimagining of The Red Shoes based on true medieval events, is forthcoming in January 2020.
When two teens discover that they were both sexually assaulted at the same party, they develop a cautious friendship through her family’s possibly-magical pastelera, his secret forest of otherworldly trees, and the swallows returning to their hometown, in Anna-Marie McLemore’s The Mirror Season…
Graciela Cristales’ whole world changes after she and a boy she barely knows are assaulted at the same party. She loses her gift for making enchanted pan dulce. Neighborhood trees vanish overnight, while mirrored glass appears, bringing reckless magic with it. And Ciela is haunted by what happened to her, and what happened to the boy whose name she never learned.
But when the boy, Lock, shows up at Ciela’s school, he has no memory of that night, and no clue that a single piece of mirrored glass is taking his life apart. Ciela decides to help him, which means hiding the truth about that night. Because Ciela knows who assaulted her, and him. And she knows that her survival, and his, depend on no one finding out what really happened.
Thank you to Netgalley and Macmillan Children’s publishing group for an advanced copy of the book in exchange for my review.
Thoughts and Themes: I had to give myself a few days to sit with this one before I wrote my review on it. This book is a heavy one, let me start with that, it deals with sexual assault and the aftermath of being sexually assaulted. It’s hard for me to put into words my feelings about this book and all the feelings that I had while reading it. There are so many moments in this book that I just highlighted and put an exclamation mark on because there was no words for how I felt.
I would say that my favorite part and the most heartbreaking part of this book was the author’s note that is at the end of the book. The author’s note reveals that this story is based on experiences of McLemore and a friend who were both assaulted by the same person. I briefly know the story of the Snow Queen so I liked how the Author explains the story in the end and how no one asked how the Snow Queen got to be so cold and have a frozen heart.
I really loved that this book touches on not just the sexual assault that occurs but the trauma and the healing that can take place afterwards. I really liked the aspects of magical realism that were included throughout the story and how this book was a retelling of the Snow Queen. I liked that this book gave an explanation for how someone could have their warmth taken away from them but also how they could work at taking it back.
Something else that I loved about this book was all the pan dulce that was talked about. I was debating on if I should mention this because I didn’t want to take away from the important talk about sexual assault but the pan dulce adds to the story for me. It didn’t just make me hungry but I loved that Ciela is able to figure out what type of pan dulce everyone needs but can’t figure Lock out and also is unable to use this magic for herself.
When I first finished it I felt like I wanted more to this story but after thinking about it, I like that it is left unfinished. I think leaving this story unfinished shows how there’s still work to do, and that their healing continues beyond this story. I think that leaving us without an answer honors the truths that McLemore wanted to share with us readers.
Characters: These characters are really what make the whole story work, I really enjoyed getting to know each of the characters that we get to meet in this book. I think that even our bad guys are important to this story and thought it was good they were included.
Ciela and Lock are assaulted at the same party by the same set of people who go to their high school. I thought the way that Ciela and Lock’s interactions throughout the whole story go were very well done. I liked how much emotion was put into each scene between them, whether it be one filled with love, confusion, hurt, or pain. Ciela and Lock’s relationship really stood out to me in this story because it was them ultimately deciding that they get to tell their story. I liked how this relationship changes throughout the book as it grows, destroys itself, and goes through the process with them.
I really liked getting a chance to not only see how Ciela was processing her feelings about the situation but also get to see Lock’s reaction as he figures out more about that night. As the reader, there are things that you can guess from the start and even when you figure it out, I don’t think you are prepared for the thoughts that Lock has about it all and what Ciela realizes. I think it was great to see both of their feelings on the page but also how they reconcile what others did to them, and the fact that this was done to them.
Writing Style: The story is told in first person through the perspective of our main character Ciela. I really liked that we got to see the story through her view because we get to see her process her feelings about that night. I think it was important that it was Ciela who got to share her story with us, and that we got to see other perspectives through interactions they had with her.
I thought it was great that while we get to know some of Lock’s feelings from what he tells Ciela, and what he doesn’t say, we don’t really get to see his perspective of things. I think that not including his feelings and having Ciela have to think about how he might feel, allows her to give him space as well as giving herself space. I think that Ciela thinking about Lock’s feelings on that night finally allows her the space to have feelings about that night as she tells her parents, and best friend, Jess.