Plague in the Mirror

320p. Candlewick. July 2013. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-7636-5980-6. LC 2012947257.
Gr 9 Up—The summer before May's senior year, she goes to Florence with a friend of her mother's and her son, May's childhood best friend. May's parents are getting a divorce, and she needs to decide which one she will stay with once she returns. Liam, whom she has always thought of as a kind of brother, is showing signs that his feelings for her are far warmer than she's prepared to deal with. To compound her confusion, a haunting figure appears at the foot of her bed during the night. Her ghostlike twin has come to lure her into a desperate trade: May will go to 14th-century Florence, while she, Cristofana, takes her place in a world free of the plague. May visits ancient Florence with Cristofana and becomes obsessed with a handsome young artist named Marco. Will her passion lead her to choose what is clearly the more dangerous option? Although the premise should make Noyes's first YA novel an absorbing read, the dissonance that May experiences is the same that readers encounter while attempting to put a picture together of what this book is trying to be. Is it historical fiction? A horror story? A romance? A book can certainly be all three, but in this title, the history lessons are too forced, the horror is too unbelievable, and the romance so nonsensical that readers will be frustrated.—Kathy Kirchoefer, Henderson County Public Library, NC
May is visiting Florence for the summer with friends of the family: travel writer Gwen and her teenage son, Liam. It's a pleasant diversion from her parents' disintegrating marriage. But something mysterious happens: she is visited repeatedly by Cristofana, a sinister, inscrutable Florentine girl from the past who resembles May enough to be her identical twin. Cristofana has found a portal to the present day and would like nothing more than to switch places with May permanently. May must weigh the benefits (a handsome painter) and disadvantages (the deadly plague) of medieval Florence, and while she visits the past as an observer, Cristofana makes mischief in the present, complicating May's evolving relationship with Liam. Writing in the third-person present tense, Noyes creates an eerie mood and limns a hauntingly vivid landscape; against this rich backdrop, her characters explore and test the bounds of their identities and their relationships. Noyes's esoteric novel may not have the widespread appeal of the latest, trendiest paranormal book, but there are enough elements of romance, fantasy, and horror to please discerning readers. jonathan hunt

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