|Jan/Feb 2005 Book Reviews|
Kathe Koja. The Blue Mirror.
Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 2004.
Ages 14 and Up
In her newest book, Kathe Koja enters into the raw and dangerous world of teenagers living on the street. The danger here is not from adults, however, but from the burning need to be loved by someone, anyone, who makes you feel special. In this case the narrator Maggy still has a place to call home, but it is so bleak that she finds herself envious of street children and flirts dangerously close to joining them forever.
The initial appeal of The Blue Mirror for me was in the character of Maggy. She is an artist struggling to find her place in a world that does not seem either artistic or sympathetic to her talent. She hates school and finds fitting in there to be even more difficult than it is for most teens. Her father is long gone and her mother is an obvious alcoholic. There is evidence that her mother loves heróthere is no abuse hereóbut her mother chooses to drink herself into oblivion rather than care for her daughter. This leaves Maggy with far too many opportunities to disappear into the night and sit in her favorite place, a coffee shop named The Blue Mirror, and sketch the scenes outside the window. It is in the Mirror that she meets Cole and his companions, Marianne and Jouly, and her sudden descent into bad love and tragedy begins. They seem to be a happy group, and Cole seems to fall in love with her quickly and completely, but appearances rapidly prove themselves to be deceiving, and Maggy is faced with a difficult choice: fight for the hard life she has, or disappear into one she can not even begin to imagine.
There is no doubt that this is a novel for teenagers, and not at all for the younger set. The language is raw, the emotions intense, and the situations most certainly mature. That is exactly how it should be though, because Koja is writing to an audience that hungers for descriptions and characters that feel the same level of emotional need that they find themselves immersed in everyday. The Blue Mirror is not a novel that shies away from its subject matter or leaves its readers disappointed by an author's timidity. Koja lays it all on the line for her characters and her readers, and I am certainly grateful that she gives us such a rich experience to fall into.