A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Vocabulary-boosting narration, for example: "He's blatantly siding with the ogres! He's encouraging and legitimizing their violent takeover by pretending that it's not even happening!" Also much discussion of how measures taken to solve problems in the past can create new problems in the present.
Strong messages of friendship, courage, teamwork. Group hugs are frequent. Empathy and forgiveness help mend a broken friendship: "Filomena understands what it's like to be under a spell, and in middle school, popularity is a pretty potent spell." The story of Stone Soup turns out to be important to the plot.
Positive Role Models
Filomena (12), Jack (13), and their many friends struggle to do the right thing while grappling with relatable issues like grief, loss, feelings of inadequacy -- and also romantic attraction that's hard to ignore. Filomena's torn between her newfound life as a much-needed princess in Never After and her peaceful family life in North Pasadena,, and still can't believe that she's hanging out with book characters she's loved her whole life. Jack often carries the weight of several worlds on his shoulders, but bravery, quick thinking, and the support of many friends are a great help. In North Pasadena, Filomena's adoptive parents are still loving and protective; they support her life in Never After but also insist she has to to to middle school like always when she's home. Characters with specialized skills, like Gretel as a seamstress or Rose as an inventor, often save the day. In a moment of crisis, teen characters hitchhike in Never After even though they know it's a really bad, unsafe idea in the mortal world.
Filomena and Gretel are "biportal," meaning they live in the world of Never After sometimes and the mortal world of Southern California the rest of the time. As we've learned, Filomena is actually a fairy princess, but her human adoptive dad is Korean-American and her adoptive mom is a Brit; both of them are writers and her mom famously cannot cook -- whereas Alistair, aka Ali Baba, is a genius chef. A newly introduced princess and her sister are Black (as is their villainous uncle, who's up to no good in the background). New character Rose Red is a brilliant inventor. A character's Japanese grandmother, who is also a witch, loves mochi.
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Violence & Scariness
Characters face mortal danger, as villains are out to kill them. They also fight with and slay enemies with swords and other weapons. A character suffers a dire wound from a sword that slices nearly to the bone. A long-lost character is found -- and killed shortly after the happy reunion. A life-threatening illness strikes Filomena's mom.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Most of the book builds up to a much-anticipated kiss, which is short but sweet as the characters have urgent problems to deal with. A character's past romance worries his new love interest. A princess must choose between her throne and the boy who loves her. A couple of newlyweds are very lovey-dovey, to their friends' annoyance, while another recently married couple is dealing with the fact that he's been turned into a frog -- and kissing him doesn't change him back. "I can't imagine it's true love's French kiss, can you?" he worries. Characters freed from a curse emerge as their very nude human selves (and are quickly clothed) -- "now that's something you don't think of when it comes to curses," Filomena ponders.
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"Moron," "good lord," "jerk."
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Products & Purchases
Occasional mentions of real products from our world, e.g. explaining to Never After residents that talking mirrors are kind of like FaceTime, and wishing they had ride-sharing apps in Never After. Also plenty of references to events in previous books, but summarized to bring the reader up to speed rather than urging them to buy more.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
A character appears hungover, complaining of a headache from "bumbleberry punch" that "packs quite a wallop."
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Broken Mirror is the third installment in The Chronicles of Never After series by Melissa de la Cruz. The series features the adventures of 12-year-old Filomena Jefferson-Cho, adopted child and middle-school outcast in North Pasadena, who discovers she's actually a lost princess from the world of her favorite fairy tales -- and it gets crazier from there, as living in two worlds has its challenges. Here, moms are in life-threatening danger, a villainous uncle plans to slay a princess and steal her kingdom, and there's plenty of hacking, slashing, swordplay, and magical bad acts, from which not everyone emerges alive. Meanwhile, a crush between Filomena and the 13-year-old fairytale hero is becoming hard to ignore, but also hard to pursue amid plot twists and perils on every page. Between the crush and the need to free a friend from a curse, kissing is on everyone's mind much of the time. Family and friendship are strong themes, emotions are relatable, varied talents come into play and save the day -- and once again a cliffhanger ending sets up the next volume.
Is It Any Good?
A frog prince, murderous villains, sibling rivalry, palace coups, and a whole lot of curses are just a few of the surprises and difficulties facing young Filomena in her latest magical adventure. Also a growing attaction to 13-year-old Jack the Giant Stalker. There's a lot to deal with as The Broken Mirror unfolds, but fortunately the friends have each other and unexpected help on the way. Including from the title character, a wisecracking magic mirror who calls himself Ira Glassman.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.