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BLACK MIRROR by Nancy Werlin Kirkus Star

BLACK MIRROR

By Nancy Werlin

Age Range: 12 & up

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 2001
ISBN: 0-8037-2605-8
Publisher: Dial

New England boarding-school junior Frances Leventhal endangers herself when she looks into her brother Daniel’s suicide. As freshmen, Frances and Daniel received scholarships to Pettengill thanks to Unity, a charitable organization started by a recent alum. Daniel and other scholarship students volunteer for Unity, but Frances never wanted to. Shocked when Daniel dies of a heroin overdose, Frances realizes she didn’t really know him and, in remorse, starts working for Unity. But the organization’s lackluster food pantry, its arrogant leader, and strange conversations she overhears make Frances increasingly suspicious. She doesn’t know whom to tell; her father, an unsuccessful writer, is emotionally distant, and her mother has returned to her native Japan to join a Buddhist monastery. Finally, Frances trusts a grounds worker who is slightly mentally retarded but steady and thoughtful. Meanwhile, Frances, who struggles with her Jewish/Japanese heritage and appearance, expresses her confusion and anger through art, which provides one of the themes: “If you think you already know what you’re looking at, you might not see what’s really there.” Frances recognizes that she has been blind about herself and her brother, whose true personality emerges subtly through her memories of him. Although the confirmation of Frances’s suspicions falls a bit flat, the story’s twists keep the reader guessing from beginning to end. Werlin (Locked Inside, 2000, etc.) has once again excelled in combining a skillfully wrought plot with fully developed characters and rich themes. (Fiction. 12+)