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••• The International Writers Magazine - 23 Years on-line - YA Book Review

Lonely Castle in the Mirror
Mizuki Tsujhmura
ISBN: 978-1-5291-7666-7
Penguin Books
• Sam Hawksmoor
A haunting surreal story of longing and fear

Lonely Castle in the Mirror
Never thought I’d ever want to read a novel about bullying at school. It’s enough to have lived through it all when young without reawakening all those demons with a novel.  However, Mizuki Tsujimura’s Lonely Castle in the Mirror stood out in Kelly’s Beckenham Bookshop and I instinctively knew I wanted to read it.
            Kokoro is a lonely only child living in a Tokyo suburb who is afraid to go back to Junior High.  In fact she will not go back and her parents have been advised not to force her, but equally don’t seem too keen to interrogate her as to why.  Clearly ‘something happened’ to wreck Kokoro’s life at school and slowly over the course of the book we will learn the reason she is terrified to leave her bedroom.
            One day in her room, her bedroom mirror begins to shine brightly and as she investigates as to why she’s abruptly drawn into another world landing in a Castle where she is accosted by the Wolf Queen. (A young girl wearing a wolf mask).  Kokoro is offered a deal. Find the secret key and be granted one special wish.  Kokoro is sorely tempted. That one wish would be for the total destruction of her nemesis at school.  
            However, she’s not the only schoolkid in the Castle. She’s introduced to six others, all of whom are skipping school for one reason or another.  How is this possible? Do they all have a wish promised them if they find the key?  It seems so, but at first each child is wary of sharing information with each other. They can only be in the Castle between the hours of 9am and 5pm. If they don’t leave at 5pm , the wolf that owns the castle will eat them.  It’s a very real threat!

        This is a strange, ethereal story, yet intensely real and human.  Kokoro isn’t sure at first that it isn’t a very long dream, but slowly she is discovering she is making friends, growing in confidence, sharing stories and learning the terrible truth as to why they are all there.
          Japan has a terrible problem with bullying in schools and at work, yet somehow this is a beautiful story, the seven young lives and personalities will stay with you for a very long time.  No surpise the novel sold over half a million copies.

© Sam Hawksmoor -  September 2022
Author of Girl with Cat (Blue) and Mission Longshot

Lonely Castle in the Mirror *Lonely Castle in the Mirror is now an anime film 2022

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