Cover Image: The Town with No Mirrors

The Town with No Mirrors

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It's actually a pretty good read, but somehow some parts of it were a little difficult for me to understand. At the beginning of reading, I felt that the flow was so slow that it often made me distracted. But the further back I got the more I could enjoy it. Zailey's actions were pretty cool in this story.
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This book is about Zailey, who lives in Gladder Hill with her grandmother.  Gladder Hill is a community where people live by very strict rules and are never allowed outside into the modern world.  Gladder Hill's rules are all focused on minimizing the importance of people's appearance, so all the residents wear the same kind of clothes (shapeless) and have their hair buzz cut periodically.  There are no mirrors and all things that might provide a reflection have been eliminated (even the reflection in a cup of coffee).  Zailey is very curious about her own appearance and spends a lot of time drawing how other people look, which she is careful to keep secret.  Zailey starts looking for clues about her own appearance and trying to find out about the mother she doesn't remember, the trouble intensifies.  I thought this was an interesting premise, but I wonder if the kids will find it as interesting or pertinent.
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Zailey has never seen her own face. "It's mine and yet everyone on Gladder Hill has seen it except me." 

There are no Mirrors and no reflective surfaces in Gladder Hill and the town rules discourage even being curious about it by teaching "the importance of inferiority - aka anti-superficiality - without mentioning exteriors." 

They even go so far as to ban books that describe people.

Kids like Zailey have only ever known this life and have no concept of the world outside Gladder Hill but for the occasional visitor from the outside. Until one day, Zailey finds herself outside of Gladder Hill... 

I would have loved it if it went even deeper in its exploration of the topics and themes in this book, but it is written for children and is appropriate for the target audience and there is plenty to unpack. 

I read this book in December and I still think about it. 

It was an easy read for me, and I really enjoyed reading this one and would recommend it for any age. 

Pub Date: 21 February 2023
Thank you @netgalley and Sourcebook Kids for letting me read this and the opportunity to give my thoughts.
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In a Nutshell: A middle-grade story with an unusual premise, with the protagonist staying in a town with no mirrors or reflective surfaces. The ending is a bit hurried but the book otherwise offers plenty of fodder for thought. It also contains an important message for kids (and adults.)

Story Synopsis:
Twelve-year-old Zailey lives with her grandmother on Gladder Hill, a gated community that forbids any kind of thought or material about appearance. There are no mirrors or any kind of reflective surfaces, and people are not allowed to stare. But Zailey has a secret: she has been drawing faces of those around her in a sketchbook that she keeps hidden. She feels conflicted about this ‘superficiality’ but cant help herself as she loves sketching portraits. When circumstances change in a way that Zailey finds herself beyond Gladder Hill, she realises how different life is outside. Is she ready to step beyond the life she knew so far?
The story comes to us in the first person perspective of Zailey. 

Where the book worked for me:
✔ The premise is outstanding, no doubt. I was confused deciding if Gladder Hill was utopian or dystopian, because many of its principles seemed sane, and an equal number seemed crazy. But it offered me plenty of thought-provoking content. 
✔ I had plenty of queries about how practical or possible it would be to eliminate all reflective surfaces from a town. Seriously! Think about it! You have water, house windows, tyre hubs, metallic instruments and implements,… Every query of mine was answered in the book without a single loophole. I love it when an author preps well for their work.
✔ The writing is quite smooth and easy-going. 
✔ The final quarter didn’t go exactly as I had thought it would. When a children’s book surprises me, it deserves a bonus score. 
✔ I loved the message put forth by the book, though it comes across in a somewhat distorted manner. Humanity is truly obsessed with external appearance. (I can’t remember the last time I saw a photo without filters! It is my biggest pet peeve about Instagram and other social media.) Hopefully, such books make kids realise that what they look like does NOT dictate what they are. Poor body image is a widespread problem (and not just among children), so I am glad the book tries to tackle this issue.
✔ Don’t skip the author’s note. It reveals much and is very heartfelt.

Where the book could have worked better for me: 
❌ The ending is a bit rushed, farfetched, and quite weak compared to the rest of the content. It was also too neatly tied together, though I can see why this is necessary in children’s fiction.
❌ Zailey is the only character to get in-depth detailing, The rest are somewhat surface-level. 
❌ The middle of the book drags a little.

All in all, I loved the premise, and liked the story and the message. I am certain it will work even better for the right age group. The content make it better for older middle-graders and younger YAs: the 11-15 age group. There are many discussion opportunities in this story.

Recommended to the above age group if they are interested in reading an unusual dystopian/utopian fiction with some meaningful content.

3.75 stars.

My thanks to SOURCEBOOKS Kids and NetGalley for the DRC of “The Town with No Mirrors”. This review is voluntary and contains my honest opinion about the book.

Note; The book contains certain tough topics such as parental abandonment and poor body image. Keep that in mind if you are purchasing this for your child/students.
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Fellow NetGalley member, Kelsey M. Librarian, said "This is an interesting exploration of society's obsession with outward appearance. It will especially appeal to readers who've enjoyed The Giver and The List." I agree, this is a really interesting take on a community hoping to build a utopia.
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Zailey has never seen her reflection. None of the children in Gladder Hill know what they look like. In Gladder Hill there is no emphasis placed on appearance and young children are given lessons in "interiority" in which they are taught not to pay attention to external qualities. Zailey, however, is a talented artist and she has secretly been sketching faces of the people in Gladder Hill and feeling guilty about her superficial thoughts, worrying her sketches could get her and her grandmother removed from the community.

The founder of Gladder Hill has gone to extremes to make sure there are no reflective surfaces in the community, no chrome, no glass, great pains taken so that there's never standing water left after it rains, etc. They even pump air into their drinking water to make it cloudy and everyone drinks from cups with lids.

When an accident forces Zailey to leave the community for medical treatment in the larger world, she begins to understand the restrictions placed on Gladder Hill in a new way.

This is an interesting exploration of society's obsession with outward appearance. It will especially appeal to readers who've enjoyed The Giver and The List.
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It is always so refreshing when I get to read a book so different from any book I’ve read before. I just had to know why was going to happen next! And the author’s note was so interesting! I hope to see more books from Christina Collins!
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Absolutely fantastic, I read parts of this to my Year 5 class and they were totally hooked. Even with a very diverse class, this appealed to all 30 of them in different ways. Will definitely be purchasing for the school library!
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I would recommend this to fans of dystopian literature, especially fans of The Giver or Divergent. Zailey was as a strong lead character, and I liked that she was curious and rebellious. While the idea behind the town sounds noble, as the plot plays out, we see the cult-like problems that arise when you try to control an entire town. I could see lots of good discussions in my classroom with this one!

I received an advance copy. All thoughts are my own.
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Genre: middle grade, coming of age, utopian/dystopian
Pace: medium
CW: body image, eating disorders, self harm
My rating: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

📚 Quick Plot: The children in Gladder Hill have never seen their own faces. In this utopian society that steers children away from superficiality by refusing to allow them to see any reflections at all, middle schooler Zailey finds herself having Superficial Thoughts. The kind that would get her kicked out of Gladder Hill for good. In fact, Zailey has a secret she's hiding- she has been drawing the faces of her fellow classmates, her teachers, and the adults around her at Gladder Hill. When her secret is discovered, Zailey suddenly finds herself outside of Gladder Hill for the first time in her life, and she's on a mission to find the truth behind the place where she grew up.

📚 Characters: I really enjoyed Zailey as a character. She was a deep thinker who was unable to quietly accept the way of life at Gladder Hill. She sought answers no matter the possible consequences. Her curiosity about the world felt realistic and understandable given her situation. I found myself rooting for her and wanting the best outcome for her.

📚 My thoughts: This is a really thought-provoking read and I think, while some of the subject matter is difficult, it's ideal for a middle grade audience. I like that the subject matter also appeals to adults because we can all imagine this concept and think about what it would be like if you'd never seen your own face. How would that shape your perception of how others looked? Even though the intention of Gladder Hill may have been good, I felt terrible for the children there.
I do think the pacing was a little slow at times. It was a little bit more of a slow burn which culminated in this chaotic situation that ultimately provided Zailey with the opportunity to learn more about herself and where she came from. I was wishing that we could have seen more of Zailey on the outside of Gladder Hill and that experience for her, so I wish some of that action happened earlier in the book.
Otherwise, a really interesting read that I would definitely share with the kids in my family who are in the appropriate age range.

Thank you NetGalley, SOURCEBOOKS Kids, and Christina Collins for providing a free ebook copy in exchange for my honest review.
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Thank you NetGalley and Sourcebooks for this ARC!

I really enjoyed this novel! It was an interesting take on the utopia/dystopia theme. 

This book approaches superficial feelings and how they can be both positive and negative. This topic in an intriguing way for middle schoolers to start a conversation about identity and how appearances can help shape our own identities. Not as powerful as The Giver but still a great beginner dystopian book.
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I feel like the opportunity created by the author to explore the very premise that she set was lost when the story ended when it did.  How would a teenager who had never seen her own face do, now that she was able to live where mirrors and other reflective surfaces were no longer banned?

Having lived in the commune of Gladder Hill most of her life, Zailey has never seen her own face, be it in a reflective surface or in a picture.  Most of her fellow residents don’t seem to mind; the older ones remember a time they could see their faces and they don’t seem to miss it.  The younger people have never seen theirs and for the most part, don’t mind.

Except for Zailey.  Her curiosity brings her to draw the faces of many of the citizens of Gladder Hill (a big no-no that could get her and her family kicked out of Gladder Hill) and try to figure out what her own looks like through her sense of touch.  Without giving too much of the plot away, I would have preferred a deeper dig into the reasons why it was believed that such a commune would work.  Would the lack of reflective surface truly end all body issues?  Would it mean the end of ranking by looks?  Would it mean the end of self-hatred caused by the endless stream of images of airbrushed and photoshopped bodies that surround us?

I still would recommend picking up this book, potentially with a book club, to discuss if such a commune could work, and how and if the members of such a commune could reintegrate into mainstream society.  It would no doubt generate a lot of conversations around the concept of beauty and the burden carried by so many to achieve the impossible standards that have been set.
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To say I am infatuated with utopian/dystopian YA books is an understatement. These are the books I LIVE FOR!!

I am a HUGE fan of The Giver so I was very excited to read this novel. Though I must admit I had some trepidation as to how it would hold up to such a classic. 

Hold onto your hats fellow dystopian readers…this tale is terrific!! The characters are well developed, as such the reader develops a close relationship with the main character Zailey. As you get to know Zailey better you feel her confusion, her sense of curiosity and her deep love of art. The world that the story takes place in is well thought out and realistic. The details are carefully crafted right down to the water.

I think this is a great introduction to dystopian stories for younger readers. A wonderful way for middle grade readers to wrap their heads around societies unlike the one their currently live in. This book would be great to follow up with The Giver and perhaps Fahrenheit 451- two great classic dystopian books. 

Books like this are the reason I read!! 

Grateful to have received a digital copy of this book from NetGalley & SOURCEBOOKS Kids, Sourcebooks Explore

🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 - 6- Star Review!!!
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Thank you #NetGalley for sending this book for review consideration. All opinions are my own.

The was an interesting take on utopia/ dystopia. The details about life on Gladder Hill come in nice increments so you don't get complacent and are left wondering at times.  Zailey's narration as someone who really only remembers Gladder Hill life is interesting and really lends to the story.  While this seems like an intro to the utopia/ dystopia genre, there are some deep themes about society and body image so I would take that into consideration when recommending it to students.  I also thought the book ended kind of abruptly and its wasn't as satisfying as I would have liked. Overall, I would add this to my classroom collection as it gives students a utopia/ dystopia option that is not violent and is maybe closer to real life than some in the genre..
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I absolutely loved this novel for discussing superficial feelings and how they can be both positive and negative. This book approaches this topic in an intriguing way for middle school and opens up the conversation about identity and how appearances can help shape your own identity. The concept of a perfect place without the concept of appearances and differences in appearances is brought to light, but quickly it is shown how this is not actually a possible thing in the world due to human nature.
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My Review:

	Firstly, thank you so much Sourcebooks for giving me the ability to read this book digitally, before it comes out. Now let me get to the review.
	This book was extraordinary. Better than The Giver even. It had some similar themes to The Giver and somewhat of the same setting, but it was way more captivating. Firstly, the idea of this story is brilliant, especially for the world we live in today, and how it deals with body image and how we, the people, perceive ourselves, and others. This was a fresh and original idea, which I had never read before.
	The characters were all well developed, and you can see in the book the journey the main character, Zailey, goes on. I really don't want to give too much away because this is one of those books that if I give too much away, it won't be as powerful of a book. The world building the author used was hyper-realistic, and sometimes I wish I was in Gladder Hill, where commenting on someones looks is forbidden. Sounds nice, right?

	This is Christina Collins second standalone book, and for a new author, I truly couldn't tell. It was like she had written hundreds of books and perfected the way of a writer. Despite this being categorized as a  Middle Grade book, I think this book would also apply to all young adults.
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In an effort to create a culture free from body issues, some well meaning adults start a small community where beauty and appearance are ideas that are erased from a generation of children.  In Gladder Hill, there are no mirrors or reflective surfaces, everyone has their hair shaved off,  wear loose clothes that do not accentuate the body, and even words like "beauty" are never used.  Everyone who enters has to agree to the rules about images and eradicating "superficiality." Of course, the children who were raised here did not agree to anything, and some become curious about themselves and the outside world.  Another solid addition to dystopian children's literature.
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I really enjoyed this book! I thought the plot was really interesting and I liked how the writing style progressed. It was a really interesting book and I thought the idea of it was amazing. I totally recommend this book to you!
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Zaily's sketches set off a series of events in Gladder Hill, a utopian community where people are not allowed to see their own faces. The story puts an interesting spin on society’s obsession with appearance, although a few unbelievable plot twists and a sugar-coated conclusion diminish the full impact.
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This is an interesting take on the isolated world where things are controlled for the better of society. In this case, it is a town in which no one can see themselves in a mirror, and words like beautiful and lovely are not to be used.  Everyone is supposed to never mention appearances, and all are supposed to be judged on themselves.

The town has only existed for 10 years, or so, and Zailey was only four when she came here, and she doesn't remember much of her old life.

But she likes to draw faces, even if she can never seen her own, and she isn't sure if that is allowed.

That is the premise for which everything thing else happens.

The second half of the book is better than the first half, where Zailey is just talking about her town, and we get introduced to the principals about it. But it was so slow, and so frustrating, I almost gave up on the book, but then things began to happen.

Good for stiring up conversations about body beauty, if nothing else.

<em>Thanks to Netgalley for making this book available for an honest review.</em>
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