For this year’s summer school novel, I picked Nancy Werlin’s Black Mirror. This is a gripping, young adult mystery novel that I find myself coming back to time and time again. I have used it in my ninth grade English classroom and in summer school sessions with both ninth and tenth graders who are reluctant readers. Written on about a seventh grade level, I would recommend this novel for high school students in ninth grade who struggle with reading or reading motivation.
Black Mirror tells the story of Frances Leventhal, an awkward, self-conscience teenage girl attending a prestigious, private preparatory school on scholarship. From the start of the novel, readers find out that her older brother, Daniel, has died of a drug overdose. As the story unfolds, readers watch as Frances struggles with her identity and the loss of her brother. With each turn of the page, readers will speculate about who was involved in the events that led to Daniels death. Was it suicide or murder? If it was suicide, why? If it was murder, who did it?
The subject matter in this 250
page novel is a bit mature for a middle school audience. It deals with drugs and has a bit of unnecessary profanity. However, it is fine for a ninth grade reader and beyond, in my humble opinion. This is a mystery novel that will keep young readers turning the page. Werlin ingeniously ended many of the chapters with exciting cliffhangers, leaving students asking if we could read just one more chapter before the end of class. As a teacher, I can’t ask for more than that kind of enthusiasm, especially from reluctant readers. If you are looking for a unique, contemporary mystery combined with a coming of age novel, this might be the right pick for you.
Check out the ELA Lessons section for lesson ideas for this novel. (Coming soon!)