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The Blue Mirror

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Sixteen-year-old Maggy's life consists of trying to be invisible at school, taking care of her alcoholic mother, and spending all the time she can at the Blue Mirror, a downtown café. She can lose herself there for hours with a cappuccino and her sketchbook, in which she creates a paper world she calls "The Blue Mirror." But everything changes when she meets Cole, a charismatic runaway. Maggy is intrigued by Cole's risky life on the streets and by the girls who follow him, childlike Jouly and strange Marianne. And when Cole says that he loves her, Maggy comes alive. As Maggy becomes more entwined with Cole and she looks at him with all her heart, she sees something far more dangerous than she may be capable of handling.

In poetic and evocative language, Kathe Koja draws us into the haunting, passionate world of The Blue Mirror.

128 pages, Mass Market Paperback

First published March 5, 2004

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About the author

Kathe Koja

126 books713 followers
Kathe Koja is a writer, director and independent producer. Her immersive work combines and plays with genres, from YA to contemporary to historical to horror. Her novels - including THE CIPHER, VELOCITIES, BUDDHA BOY, TALK, and the UNDER THE POPPY trilogy–have won awards, been multiply translated, and optioned for film and performance.

Her new novel is DARK FACTORY, out in May 2022 from Meerkat Press, and happening now online https://darkfactory.club/

She's globally minded, and based in Detroit USA.

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5 stars
238 (34%)
4 stars
189 (27%)
3 stars
172 (24%)
2 stars
74 (10%)
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23 (3%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 77 reviews
Profile Image for Greta is Erikasbuddy.
851 reviews28 followers
July 15, 2011
First Review - May 2011

Stay away from the static cling boys that make your heart go pitter patter. When things are too good to be true... they probably are.

This book had me glued until the very end... although I absolutely hated the ALMOST end ... I really did dig the FINAL end ;) and everything in between was amazing.

Its a nice short read that is written in a language of its very own. It was unbelievably true to the heart. You could feel that the author slipped a piece of herself into these pages If you like Francesca Lia Block then you would most definitely dig this book.

And.... I freaking LOVE the cover, the idea of a blue lipstick boy,and the sketchbook world of a teenage soul in the city.

It probably deserves 4 stars but like I said... the almost ending bugged me.

Second Review - July 2011- upon further inspection

This book has been haunting me for two months. I swear I have thought about it every single day since the first time I had read it. It has just stuck with me. Sitting in my bookcase, whispering my name, wanting me to reread it.

But I gave it 3 stars. Why is this book telling me to give it another try?

I don't know what it is about this book but the second time you read it .... well, the second time I read it.... I loved it even more.

The writing is so unbelievably beautiful. The story is so close to my heart that it brings back the past. And oh oh oh you connect with the characters so closely that I swear I could pick them out of a crowd.

Super loves this book! IS now one of my absolute favorites that I will read over and over again. I'm changing my 3 star rating to 5!

This is how I see Cole
Profile Image for Darkfallen.
259 reviews46 followers
May 17, 2011
I don't' really know how to rate this book...at times I wanted to give it 4 stars, at other 2, so in the end lets roll with 2.5? lolz

I bet you can already guess since I can't even decide how to rate this book that my review will be equally all over the place;) So ummmm just hang on tight and we will try to make it through this together.

In my experience there are books you love, books you hate, and books that were just *shrugs*. Well now there is a new kind to add to that list. Books that leave you confused....here I found myself falling head over heels, then landing in a dark ally. Walking around befuddled, hitting my head a few times, tripping over a dumpster, then the sun comes back out, the birds start singing, life is good again. Then after going through all that out of no where I'm smacked in to face with the bat, left standing in the middle of a busy intersection, once again befuddled....and cold....so very very cold...

I mean Maggie is awesome. I love her and how she deals with her less than stellar life. Having to play the parent to her drunk of a mother. Worrying if today is the day that she will come home to find the house burnt down because drunko passed out with yet another cigarette in her hand. Getting lost in her own world inside her sketch book.

I even love the idea of Cole. Who at this point I'm not even quite sure what he is, but I'm gonna go with some kind of male succubus. Does that make him an incubus? Yea I don't know but once you read this, if you do, and you figure it out PLEASE come knock on my door and tell me!! I mean at the end of this story I still didn't get what he was. Or more importantly what was the lesson here. The relevance of this story escapes me.

Also the best way to describe the writing style is poetic gymnastics, or maybe a lyrical marathon of sorts. As for my feelings on that....much of the same, at times it was genius, at others it was forced and confusing leading me right back to befuddled.

Have I left you feeling befuddled at how many time I used the befuddled? LOLZ Well then maybe you know how this book left me feeling...
Profile Image for Johanna.
32 reviews29 followers
April 11, 2012
Maggie, a high school senior, is an artist and a caretaker of her alcoholic mother. Her outlet is sitting a cafe called The Blue Mirror and drawing the people that past the cafe's window. She falls in love with an extremely good looking boy that she sees through the window. The suave boy, Cole, and his two friends, both younger girls, befriend lonely Maggie. It turns out that Cole and his friends are homeless and thieves, but Maggie ignores this because she loves Cole and he says that he loves her. Eventually, Maggie realizes that Cole is actually a sexual predator who victimizes Maggie and the other girls. Maggie finally escapes Cole and finds healing and friendship with one of Cole's victims.
This was my favorite Koja book because, although it was bleak, it dealt with the real issue of victimization, and how hard it is to realize if you are a victim. This book is a good counterbalance to the Twilight series, because this is what might really happen if you fall in love with a stranger and start spending n inordinate amount of time with him or her. The description of the characters and Maggie's voice were very intriguing, and the book had an uplifting but not cheesy ending. In essence, this book touches on a very real issue with delicacy and hope, and hope is sometimes what teens need most from their literature, especially victimized teens.
Profile Image for Peony Minassian.
13 reviews
April 2, 2012
The Blue Mirror by Kathe Koja is a very confusing yet interesting book. When i saw this book in the library, the front cover seemed mysterious and so did the title which made me want to read it. This book is about a girl named Maggy and the journey she goes through from falling in love with a runaway street boy named Cole, dealing with her alcoholic mother Monica, and the endless hours she spends at the Blue Mirror. My favorite line from this book was "My own personal paper world: it's called "The Blue Mirror, too. The reason why i liked this quote was because not only was the cafe she always went to called the Blue Mirror, but so was her sketchbook, which was her only escape from the real world. The authors writing style is a lot different from other books I've read mainly because most of the talking was inside the characters head and not actually spoken out. It was from Maggy's point of view, so it was very detailed on her feelings. One possible theme for this story would be to not judge people so quickly. Maggie thought that her new boyfriend Cole was amazing, and within a matter of days she was in love, but what she didn't know was he was a lot of trouble. This book was very deep and at times very depressing. Anyone who loves to read more dramatic, suspenseful books will enjoy this for sure!
Profile Image for Brittany Durrant.
29 reviews6 followers
December 18, 2012
I thought this book was really confusing because there were some parts where the main character was confused on what her boyfriend and his two friends were up to. For example,her boyfriend and his two friends wore blue lipstick and it was never revealed why they wore it and how it never came off. Toward the ending it got very intense because she found out something bad about her boyfriend. I would recommend this book to high school girls because it has to do with her mysterious boyfriend, her drunken mother, and a little bit of her best friend, Casey.
June 9, 2009
This book immediately draws you into the uncompromising world of teens living on the street. Maggie, the main character, is honest and lovable, and Cole is incredibly intriguing. Koja's writing style is unique and poetic, providing the story with lots of unexpected turns. Reading it, it feels as though you are spiralling down into the darkness of Maggie's world, suspended somewhere between fiction and reality. The ending is amazing, as well. I feel in love straight away.
Profile Image for Owen.
209 reviews
April 13, 2013
Sometimes when I read books by Kathe Koja, I wonder if they are actual books or just fictional accounts of people that certainly could be real. These people tend to be unable to find happiness, they are restless, their lives do not flow with ease. There is a word, which I cannot remember, that describes the philosophy behind the fact that every day you pass so many people (dozens, hundreds, thousands) sometimes called "extras", in your fabulous lives, and they all have lives of their own in which you are only an extra. It is as if we are all billions of lines that cross paths and intersect at certain moments, creating a really cool woven web called Life.

Is it so hard to imagine that Koja's characters are of this phenomenon? No way.

In The Blue Mirror, there is a girl named Maggy that has a tough life and she becomes friends with these homeless kids because she's lonely and so are they. What is even better for her is that the boy, Cole, is this beautiful "exotic" person with charm, good looks, and blue lipstick intrigue. He is Mags' Prince Charming.

Until, he is not who Maggy thought he was.

I don't think this is the best book by Koja I have read, but I did enjoy it. The characters were interesting, but the plot could have been more substantial. It seemed that Cole's and Maggy's relationship took off very quickly and then not much else happened; which tends to occur in her books but nevertheless, there is enough to make the book without tons of plot. But...this is not a romance book. It is a book about the people your parents were always warning you about; the ones that will try to take advantage of you.

What is it about this author that speaks to me so much? I can't say I relate to what happens in her books, because I've never been in any of these situations. I think I just appreciate how real they seem, as real stories and as real people. They are those kids you pass in the hallways at school and you can't remember their names but you know inside of you that there is something in their life that is a defining part of them, whether it is a good or bad thing. And Kathe Koja gets that; that we don't all want popularity or flawless looks. She understands that we aren't shallow like how teens are often portrayed in movies. She knows that just because we don't always talk to everyone doesn't mean we hate them, sometimes happiness can be solitude.

I'm getting off track. This has turned into a description of why I love this author. But, that's not a bad thing. I wish more people read her books because a lot of the stories would resonate well with all sorts of people.
6 reviews1 follower
October 22, 2014
This book is about a high school girl named Maggy. She is very artistic. Maggy has a cat named Paz and her mom's name is Monica. Maggy always went down town to something called a Blue Mirror. Maggy barely went to school because of it and the teachers started to wonder what was going on. She went there because it was peaceful and she liked to draw things that she saw. One day she saw this one boy who she thought was kind of cute so she went to go and draw him but he disappeared. The next day she went back hoping she would see him again, and she did. She found out that his name was Cole. Later on they became friends and soon they were more than that. They always hung out at the library. Cole, Maggy, Marianne, Jouly, they were all there. As the story went on they fall deeper and deeper in love and Maggy thought that he was the right one for her. Then one day Marianne decided to tell Maggy that Cole didn't love her, he was just using her. Marianne wouldn't tell her what he was using her for but she thought about it a lot. Cole went around town all day long trying to find Maggy and when he finally found her, Maggy didn't want anything to do with him. Monica wasn't really there for Maggy but after her and Cole broke up then Monica was right there by her side. To find out what happens next, read the book.

Maggy was a very artistic person. She was nice, kind of lonely and didn't have many friends. Maggy loved her cat , Paz, but she didn't really like her mom.

Monica was Maggy's mom. She didn't do much other than side in the chair, watch T.V, and smoke cigarettes all day. Monica wasn't there for Maggy that much which is why they didn't get along so well.

Cole was Maggy's boyfriend. At first he was a nice, caring, and sweet boy but later on you'll find out that he changes. He lied to Maggy for a long time.

I would recommend this book to teens over the age of 14 and any gender. I say this because there is some bad language in this book. Adults would like this book too if they were in to fiction or stories about love and what love eventually turns out to be. Also people who like to read books that kind of relate to real life events. Not all teens over 14 would like this but if you're interested in these types of things, you might.

Profile Image for Madly Jane.
604 reviews126 followers
May 14, 2016
I want to preface this comment by saying that each year I try to read a new author, not a debut author, but one that has been around for a long time. This year, it's Kathe Koja. The Blue Mirror is a very small novel, but it packs a big punch, and reminds me of the power of Rachel Ingall's Mrs. Caliban, which is one of my favorite contemporary novels.

Both novels are about self-discovery and loneliness amid a flawed world full of flawed people. It's a mind game, a rush of emotion about attempting to save one's self.

It goes like this:

Maggy is a young girl, high school age, who sits in a coffee shop and draws the world around her. It's a world full of flaws and misfortunes, but a much better place than her home where her mother, Monica, drinks her life away. For Maggy, Monica's life is very painful.

However, Maggy is not a lost soul, not yet. She is capable of still feeling good about the world and even capable of loving.

Enter Cole.

Cole is a test of where Maggy's life will go. Cole is Christina Rossetti's goblin boy, beautiful and magical and his voice sings her sorrows away. But what is Cole? What does he mean for Maggy, for all girls? What does he really want and need?

I thought this was a perfect novel until around page 111. It MAY BE be a perfect novel, still. But the ending was a little too upbeat for me, and I am wondering if between the lines of the last chapter, Koja is still thinking what I am thinking, that once a girl is touched by Cole, she is never really free.

The wonderful thing is I am always going to think about this story. Like Mrs. Caliban, this novel is going to stay with me forever. The writing is beautiful, the prose masterful. This is how and why first person present tense exists. It is a small powerful story told from the heart and mind of a single character, a linear mind game, a simple story of a lonely girl who meets the danger in herself.

Right now I feel troubled, happy but troubled. That's how I feel when I read a great book. So what the hell, it's a perfect novel. Perfect enough.
Profile Image for Robert Beveridge.
2,402 reviews155 followers
January 20, 2008
Kathe Koja, The Blue Mirror (Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux, 2004)

It should be obvious by now that any time a new Kathe Koja book comes out, I'll be reviewing it within a few weeks. The Blue Mirror is Koja's eighth novel, and her third for young adults. The YA novels are markedly different from her adult work; they are much shorter and more focused on a sole protagonist than her adult work (and, needless to say, there's less sex). The protagonist here is Maggy, a sixteen-year-old girl with an alcoholic mother, a cat she dotes on, a blatant indifference toward school, and a lot of artistic talent. She spends her afternoons in a window booth at the Blue Mirror cafe, drawing street scenes and drinking coffee. Until, that is, she meets a band of homeless kids led by mysterious, handsome Cole. Cole is the boy your mother always warned you about, and needless to say, things change quickly for Maggy.

This is, perhaps, the YA novel that comes closest to one of Koja's adult novels; you can see the rawness through the paint scrapes (Maggy's mother being present and alcoholic, for example, rather than the referred-to-but-rarely-seen shades of parents in her earlier YA novels). Cole is very much the incubus, even if he doesn't sprout wings. As usual, Koja draws her characters with stunning believability, and nothing they do, no matter how irrational, ever seems out of character. The book's only real problem is that it's missing that certain undefinable something that makes Koja's best novels (Skin, Strange Angels, Straydog) into absolutely perfect works of fiction. But even without that whatever-it-is, he Blue Mirror is another ultimately worthy addition to the shelf of Koja novels you should all have been building next to the bed. Better than Buddha Boy, on a par with The Cipher. A must-read. **** 1/2
Profile Image for Michele Lee.
Author 17 books49 followers
November 30, 2015
Maggie flees to The Blue Mirror, a café that serves as her sacred space, nightly to escape her drunk, depressed mother. There she nurses a drink and spends most of her time drawing the things and people around her, translating them into her own world, which shares a name with her café hide out.

It's there that she meets Cole, a dreamy stranger who makes something inside her sing. Leader of a small band of street kids he's exciting, dangerous and manipulative. And he swears he loves her.

After the questionable, uncomfortable love story of the Twilight books it's refreshing to have a fictional voyage into twisted love, framed by adult issues that teens are being forced to face more and more, and dreamy, hyper-flowing prose. This is one powerful book, despite it's short length and should be a must read in the modern overload of relationship dramas in young adult fiction.
Profile Image for Gayle.
430 reviews19 followers
April 10, 2014
This book kind of jarred me out of my safe, naïve world. I am fully aware there are kids living on the street or on the cusp of living on the street but I don't really know what it fully entails. The Blue Mirror is about Maggie, a 16-yr. old, living with her falling down drunk mother, who spends a good portion of her time at a diner (The Blue Mirror) drawing what she sees as she looks out the window. Street kids are part of what she sees. Unfortunately, one of these street kids is a beautifully handsome young man whom she meets and "falls in love with." Maggie has her eyes opened as to what goes on in the streets and manages to make the decision she wants no part of it. It's a sad, haunting book.
Profile Image for Bethany.
125 reviews24 followers
May 11, 2012
The Blue Mirror was a really interesting book. It sort of seemed like realistic fiction, but for the hint of the paranormal. I've seen it's tagged as a vampire book, but I don't really think that's what Cole was. I actually thought it was cool that you didn't exactly understand what he was. He was kinda just a black hole of evil.

This is the first novel I've read from author Kathy Koje and I as very impressed with her writing. She has a very lyrical, poetic was of saying things and I though the writing in this novel was really beautiful.
Profile Image for Heather *sad DNF queen*.
Author 19 books461 followers
September 17, 2009
I thought the story was pretty interesting and successfully rendered. I did want to learn more about Cole's nature, but the author revealed just enough for a satisfying story while still maintaining the reader's curiosity. While I liked Maggy's voice, to me the writing style was extremely annoying. It didn't make sense half the time. I understood what the author was trying to do, but some passages were practically incoherent with too many commas and quotes in all the wrong places.
Profile Image for Kate Jay.
7 reviews
April 15, 2023
The Blue Mirror is a quick read, something you can read through in a single sitting without your coffee getting cold, but packs one of the most powerful punches for a book of its size. While experimental and dreamlike at points, the story is streamlined and crafted to give readers a sense of unease from start to finish.

It's unreal how well Koja captures the thoughts and rationale of Maggy, the lonely artistic teen who feels like more of an outcast than she really is. Her choices make sense, they're eerily close to those my friends and I made when we were her age. Cole is so real to the point he makes my skin crawl. It's been several hours since I finished the book, and my stomach still hasn't settled despite the happy ending. I know I'll think about The Blue Mirror for the rest of my life, and I wholeheartedly believe that if I'd read this when I was Maggy's age it would have served as an excellent cautionary tale. It still does now.

For those who are or would recommend this book to young readers; This is, at several times, an incredibly difficult book to stomach. Sexual coercion and assault are hinted at and described (not in explicit detail) several times throughout the story as something that happens off-page and to the main character at the moment. Koja doesn't go into a lot of specifics, but it's still there and something that I'd absolutely want first-time readers to be aware of before they start. My friend lent me her copy to read, and I was so grateful she gave me a heads-up on the content.

All of that being said, I don't want it to sound like I am criticizing The Blue Mirror for its content; it is a necessary and integral part of the plot and character development. I just don't want any young reader to be caught unaware. I can't say it enough, this book is fantastic and I'd recommend it to pretty much every young adult reader.
Profile Image for Karen.
86 reviews1 follower
June 17, 2019
This is the story of Maggie, a high school sketch artist who lives with her alcoholic mother. Maggie likes to go out at night to a coffee shop called The Blue Mirror and sketch the street scenes she views from the window while she sips her grande cappucino. One night, she see a beautiful raven-haired street boy and his two female friends who all wear dark blue lipstick. They all stick in her mind, but especially the boy. They eventually meet in The Blue Mirror coffee shop and Maggie finds herself falling hard for the raven-haired boy, who's name is Cole. He becomes her obsession and obsessions consume, as Cole almost does.
What Cole is in this story is never given a name. What he does to those that become mesmerized by him is described many times. He is not a vampire, but the hazy description of him in this story can lead you to mistakenly think he is for a little while. But I think he is perhaps a demon lover or Death from "Death and the Maiden" and "Dance Macrbre". He reflects back to the girls he enthralls what they want to see most...As long as he can enthrall you, you are in his spell and he takes your life force until you are an empty shell, the living dead, a zombie as in the case of the character of Joulz. I will stop there, so as not to spoil any more of the story. Read it! You will be enthralled!
January 19, 2018
The Blue Mirror was a book that really caught my eye with the short description on the back of the book. It told what I thought were going to be minor details in the book. As I continued to read, I felt as if I was constantly trying to get to the climax. There were a few events that happened that could be considered unexpected but nothing out of the ordinary from this storyline of a book. The overall story was good but I feel like I read it all when I read the back of it. There was not much to it.
Profile Image for Alya Carrillo.
2 reviews
December 11, 2017
I will be completely honest I do not remember much about this book but I can say it played with my heart. At least from what I remember, there is a feel of being let down when I see the cover, and along with that is broken hearted. I will surely reread sometime soon so I can be wrapped in Koja's grasp and relive the book.
21 reviews
May 16, 2018
Personal Response

This book is not close to what I have been reading before, so I thought it was pretty interesting. I enjoyed this book because of what it was about. It was about this girl that had some problems in her life with her mom being an alcoholic and her having to take care of her mom all the time. Personally, I rate this 4 out of 5 stars because it is a very interesting and deep book.

Plot Summary

Profile Image for Faith Bradshaw.
94 reviews5 followers
March 10, 2020
This was very different than anything I have read before. I loved the mystery element although I wanted to scream at the main character multiple times to get her life together. The artistic and psychological elements mixed perfectly and overall I enjoyed this creepy short story, although I still have some questions.
17 reviews
January 12, 2021
This is the more relatable adolescence love story from koja.
A young girl living inside her head, parental neglect, falling in love with the first thing that spark her interest, ignoring all the red flags. yup, smells like teen spirit. Quite believable character.
Profile Image for Dani Rupp.
6 reviews
June 23, 2020
This book was a little hard to follow but I think it was incredibly thought provoking.
Profile Image for Joanna Spock Dean.
218 reviews1 follower
September 16, 2020
I've been a big fan of Kathe Koja for many years. My only comment on this book, is I don't understand why Maggy didn't run screaming in any direction way earlier. Still loved it.
Profile Image for BB Laurens.
Author 2 books47 followers
February 1, 2021
This book is like pure poetry. It is so good, I may read it again! Maggy and Cole are dangerously smooth.
Profile Image for Sophia Topete.
6 reviews
December 20, 2016
“My own personal paper world, it’s called the Blue Mirror.” Teenage Maggie is used to living on the rough side, with only her alcoholic mother she must fend for herself. The Blue Mirror is not only her typical hangout spot, but The Blue Mirror is also what she refers to her sketchbook as. She has her usual booth right next to the big window where she sits for hours and just draws everything that she sees. Her life is very chaotic, but when Cole walks into her life, everything seems to turn around and get a little better. She is head over heels for this boy, but it all seems a little too good to be true. Unfortunately for her, that’s exactly what it is. This book is considered a speculative fiction.

A geographic location is never stated in this book. However, the story shifts to different places within their town or city. For example, it goes between Maggy’s apartment, to the Blue Mirror (the cafe), the wishing well, her school, and her many bus rides. Maggy tries to her best to stay away from home. Her father abandoned both her and her mother, Monica, which then led to her mother becoming an alcoholic. An point that found found a little confusing at first, but interesting was that Maggy refers to her mother by her name, Monica. She doesn’t call her “mom” like majority of children and/or teenagers would. Maggy is forced to care for Monica and actually play the mother role even though she is only just a teenager. Maggy dislikes school and spends her time there trying to be invisible. When she isn’t at school she is at the cafe drawing in her sketchbook or chatting with Casey, a cafe worker that became her friend. Cole eventually comes into her life, along with Marianne and Jouly. Maggy falls in love with Cole. Marianne was always very hostile towards her because she was jealous. Marianne is around the same age as Maggy and Jouly is only 13 years old with a very childish mindset. Everyone tries to warn Maggy about Cole and his ways but she doesn’t listen. She is then left on her own to figure things out and realize who he truly is. Eventually Cole’s true colors and intentions shine brightly and Maggy attempts to escape Cole and his abusive ways with Marianne. Through all of these experiences and her realizations with Cole, Maggy is able to form a new beautiful friendship with Marianne. Marianne ends up moving in with Maggie, since she was, in fact, homeless and trapped with Cole and Jouly.

Kathe Koja sets her book up to explore the many confusions between infatuation and real love. Koja speaks from Maggie’s thoughts, not actually aloud. This causes the book to be a bit confusing at times, however it is definitely worth the read. I would say the intended audience for this book is young adults. Since she has a more complex writing style, it may cause the journey through this story to be a sort of difficult.
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