This is such a dark and haunting story.
It’s the kind of horror where the paranormal things happening are less atrocious than what the humans are doing. It’s a very dark and sobering book and is set in the 1950s in southern USA. (Side note, I am Australian so I haven’t learned USA history in depth.) Also if you hear the word “horror” and go “ehhh no I don’t read that”, waaaaait. This isn’t full of jump-scares and probably is also classified as paranormal historical YA too. Needless to say, you should definitely still read!!
It follows the story of Charlie and Magnolia, twins separated at birth. Their father was a white heir to a rich plantation family, and their mother a Black housekeeper. They ran away together, but were later murdered, and each of their grandmothers took one of the babies: because Charlie was born Black and Magnolia very light-skinned and able to pass as white. They were JUST BABIES. They didn’t get a choice. Magnolia was basically ripped away from Charlie and their Black grandma and never even got to know she had a sister or Black heritage. She only finds out when the book begins and her white grandmother dies (she was such a cruel awful woman too).
“Because every time I accept that I’m worth less – less than a man, or a white person, or a gosh-darn oil baron – it punches a hole in my spirit. Punch enough holes and your spirit breaks.
It’s told in dual POV by both sisters and I loved them both a lot, though I think Magnolia had the bigger personal arc. Once she learns she’s Black, she ends up cursed and unable to eat/drink and is seeing terrifying ghosts, because it’s like part of her has been fractured in two. It’s time to choose a side. Meanwhile, Charlie grew up in New York (while Magnolia stayed in the south) and she fights for full rights and she’s forthright and wonderful. The sister bond was LOVELY too. They are literal strangers at first, but 🥺 their hearts know each other.
The book doesn’t shy away from covering horrible historical events: murders of slaves, the absolute obscene amount of racial prejudice Black people faced and their casual killings by bigoted, evil white people. Sobering reveals happened at every turn. And it’s also full of the fierce love, joy, and pride of the Black community. They were fully willing to accept Magnolia if she chose to stand with her people. It’s a very powerful story.
Curses, ghosts, a creepy house full of horrific secrets: it’s a story that says the dead aren’t who you truly have to fear when humans are capable of worse to each other.
Title: Mirror Girls
Author: Kelly McWilliams
Date Published: February 8th 2022
Genre: YA Historical Fiction, Horror
Publisher: Little Brown Books for Young Readers
Purchase: Book Depository
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As infants, twin sisters Charlie Yates and Magnolia Heathwood were secretly separated after the brutal lynching of their parents, who died for loving across the color line. Now, at the dawn of the Civil Rights Movement, Charlie is a young Black organizer in Harlem, while white-passing Magnolia is the heiress to a cotton plantation in rural Georgia.
Magnolia knows nothing of her racial heritage, but secrets are hard to keep in a town haunted by the ghosts of its slave-holding past. When Magnolia finally learns the truth, her reflection mysteriously disappears from mirrors—the sign of a terrible curse. Meanwhile, in Harlem, Charlie’s beloved grandmother falls ill. Her final wish is to be buried back home in Georgia—and, unbeknownst to Charlie, to see her long-lost granddaughter, Magnolia Heathwood, one last time. So Charlie travels into the Deep South, confronting the land of her worst nightmares—and Jim Crow segregation.
The sisters reunite as teenagers in the deeply haunted town of Eureka, Georgia, where ghosts linger centuries after their time and dangers lurk behind every mirror. They couldn’t be more different, but they will need each other to put the hauntings of the past to rest, to break the mirrors’ deadly curse—and to discover the meaning of sisterhood in a racially divided land.