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Book Reviews by NBPL Teens

Lonely Castle in the Mirror by Mizuki Tsujimura

Review By Kyra

Post Date:05/01/2022 9:00 am

lonely castle in the mirror book cover

Lonely Castle In the Mirror is written by Mizuki Tsujimura and translated into English by Peter Gabriel. It follows Kokoro, a young teen girl living in Japan and the fantastical experiences that are presented to her. As the story unfolds, we learn why Kokoro isn’t attending school, the trauma that she faced, and her hesitation and anxiety that is keeping her isolated within her bedroom walls. Lonely Castle In the Mirror alternates between the “real world” and the castle, a magical fantasyland that becomes a safe haven for Kokora and six other children. Each of these children witnessed the sudden illumination of a mirror within their home that transported them to a world beyond anything that they had ever witnessed. Once inside, each was presented with an opportunity for adventure, a chance for a granted wish, a set of rules to follow, and perhaps the possibility for a fatal consequence. This quickly became a new favorite novel of 2022 (and my entire reading life, overall), especially when the final chapter resolved many questions that I had while reading. The romantic nature of Japanese literature paired with the gentleness of middle grade (or young YA) created a pleasant reading experience. In fact, the reading experience “mirrored” the experiences of the children in the book; I opened the book to escape into a beautiful world, just as they entered their mirror to escape into a castle of solitude. My only issue with “The Lonely Castle in the Mirror” is the pacing. While at times, the pacing works to simulate the highs and lows of months passing, some readers may find themselves entering a doldrum of a reading slump towards the middle of the novel. Additionally, a large plot twist happens, without much explanation, in the final pages of the book.  

 

As each of the seven children is introduced, readers witness their personalities, dreams, lifestyles, and future combine and create. Lonely Castle in the Mirror is at once an atmospheric coming-of-age story but many elements of traditional fairy tales from the western world are used to bring whimsy and mystery. The Lonely Castle in the Mirror is highly praised in Japan and internationally, and it is an eye-opening look into Japanese culture for readers who are unfamiliar to it. At times, the unfair pacification of these young teenagers and the stigma surrounding mental health is exposed and experienced. For this reason, those who have struggled with these issues will be able to feel comforted and find solace. I encourage readers to begin reading with no expectations, so that you will experience the magical reading experience that the book deserves. Keep an open mind while entering into this world, where mundane daily life blends with bizarre elements to create a beautiful and moving literary experience. This YA novel transcends the younger audiences and could appeal to anyone looking for light reads that hold heavy topics with gentleness and imagination. It contains topics of mental health (anxiety, depression, melancholy, trauma) but Tsujimura approaches the subjects with delicate complexities and unique narratives. Readers who enjoyed the tone of “The Housekeeper and the Professor” by Yoko Agawa and are looking for a light fantastical read with young narrators, friendship, and emotion (similar to “The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe” by C.S. Lewis but also very different) will find this novel to be comforting, provoking, and engaging. If you should decide to start this story for your next read, or add it to your overflowing TBR, I truly hope that you find the joy and happiness within the pages as I did. 

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