Seven students find unusual common ground in this warm, puzzle-like Japanese bestseller laced with gentle fantasy and compassionate insight.
Bullied to the point of dropping out of school, Kokoro’s days blur together as she hides in her bedroom, unable to face her family or friends. As she spirals into despair, her mirror begins to shine; with a touch, Kokoro is pulled from her lonely life into a resplendent, bizarre fairytale castle guarded by a strange girl in a wolf mask. Six other students have been brought to the castle, and soon this marvelous refuge becomes their playground.
The castle has a hidden room that can grant a single wish, but there are rules to be followed, and breaking them will have dire consequences. As Kokoro and her new acquaintances spend more time in their new sanctuary, they begin to unlock the castle’s secrets and, tentatively, each other’s.
With the thoughtful whimsy of Before the Coffee Gets Cold, the exquisite textures of A Tale for the Time Being, and the youthful resonance of Your Name, Mizuki Tsujimura paints an intricate portrait of a cycle of loneliness that can only be broken by friendship, empathy, and sacrifice. Lonely Castle in the Mirror is a mesmerizing, heart-warming novel about the unexpected rewards of embracing human connection.
Alice in Wonderland meets The Breakfast Club in this stunning outing from Tsujimura (Anime Supremacy), beautifully translated by Gabriel. Seventh grader Kokoro Anzai is bullied so badly that she drops out of Yukishina No. 5 Junior High School and can't bring herself to attend the alternative school, "Kokoro no kyoshitsu" (or "Classroom for the Heart"), selected by her parents. Instead, Kokoro escapes during the school day into the other side of her glowing bedroom mirror. There she finds a Western fairy tale castle run by the Wolf Queen, a girl in a pinafore dress and a wolf mask, who has brought Kokoro and six other children to her realm on a special quest: whoever finds a key to a "wishing room" will have their wish granted—and Kokoro's wish is to make her bullies disappear. Gabriel does an excellent job of contextualizing Japanese honorifics for a Western audience and explaining character names as the story unfolds gently and satisfyingly, offering sensitively drawn portraits of suffering teenagers whom the regular school system has failed. This sweet, kindhearted, and deeply sympathetic magical realist novel about middle school dropouts pulling each other back from the brink will resonate with readers of all ages.