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Rajani LaRocca

Author of Red, White, and Whole

19 Works 830 Members 48 Reviews

About the Author

Image credit: Rajani LaRocca at BookExpo at the Javits Center in New York City, May 2019. By Rhododendrites - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=79387600

Works by Rajani LaRocca


Common Knowledge




Representation: Asian characters
Trigger warnings: Physical injury in the past, blood depiction, self-harm, anxiety, near-death experience
Score: Six and a half out of ten.
Find this review on The StoryGraph.
It looks like I finally got around to reading this one. Mirror to Mirror by Rajani LaRocca was a novel-in-verse I hadn't heard of, but it was a recommendation. It was difficult to get this one as no library had it physically, so I got an eBook edition instead. I glanced at the intriguing blurb, but when I closed the final page, the book wasn't what I expected.

It starts with a prologue where I see Maya and Chaya, before it cuts to the story after a few pages. The plot describes Maya as down-to-earth while Chaya is more extroverted, and the POV switches between them each chapter. Mirror to Mirror is surprisingly heavy for a narrative targeted at a younger audience, especially in the first half spanning 200 pages, where Maya does self-harm (and gets away with it,) all in the guise of achieving perfection. Maya has anxiety, but at no point in Mirror to Mirror does she receive any mental health support, which concerned me, and sent a message that it's acceptable to ignore mental illnesses.

The beginning started off well, but the last 150 pages dampened the mood with a jarring juxtaposition, as Maya had had enough, so she switched classes with Chaya, even when they attend the same summer camp. The characters were likable, but hard to connect or relate with, and the multiple first POVs got confusing--I almost couldn't tell which was which. Perhaps the 3rd POV would've worked better, but the Indian American representation was an appreciated touch. The pacing is slow, too. Did the work need that part when it detracted from the central storyline? I felt LaRocca wrote that as an afterthought, and a copy of The Parent Trap, but without the parents. The climax is dramatic, yet predictable, as I knew the plan would fall apart in the end. It did, as the twins' parents discovered they swapped and lived each other's lives for the entire time. Maya's anxiety is magically gone as well, which I didn't find satisfying.

I expected a deep exploration of mental health, but this was not it. The poetry was okay, but it was more spaced-out prose than real poetry. Adding poetic devices would improve Mirror to Mirror.
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Law_Books600 | 2 other reviews | May 16, 2024 |
Gr 3–8—Thirteen-year-old Reha feels conflicted over her Indian American identity because of the expectations of
her family, the predominantly white spaces she inhabits during the week, and how to fit into both. When Reha's
mother falls seriously ill, the family must come together for an unimaginable future. With tragedy looming, Reha
figures out how to unite these parts of herself. This historical fiction novel in verse set in 1983 is a timely,
heartrending tale.
BackstoryBooks | 15 other reviews | Apr 1, 2024 |
Newbery Honor book

Red, White and Whole is a powerful book in verse about bridging two cultures, family, community, and hope. As Reha tries to figure out where she belongs - in India or America -, her mother is diagnosed with leukemia. Reha had found herself becoming more distanced from her parents, but with her mother's illness she also feels removed from her friends as she copes with it.

Like the character in the story I was also 13 in 1983 so I enjoyed the music and pop culture references (MTV, Walkman, Star Wars).

This is a wonderful story - certainly elevates the middle school novel. It covers heavy topics and the words of Reha's mom may provoke tears, however, this is one of those books to recommend to the tweens in your life.
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AnnesLibrary | 15 other reviews | Jan 28, 2024 |
This book, written in verse and laden with beautiful symbolism, is highly recommended. It describes a first-generation immigrant experience that many in America can relate to, as well as a powerful story of loss and grief.
alixfallows | 15 other reviews | Jan 16, 2024 |



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