Cara Delevingne: supermodel, heiress, “actress”. She may be a household name now, but Delevingne came from humble beginnings, growing up in the slums of London’s Belgravia and facing the immense financial pressures of being born into the lit-e-ral aristocracy. Despite the obstacles of unimaginable privilege, our girl rose above the rest in the cutthroat world of modelling — and it’s not just the fashion world Cara has taken by storm. A multi-hyphenate of the grandest proportions, the actress-singer-songwriter-socialite has left no stone unturned. She’s starred in criminally underrated cult classic “Paper Towns”, and even released a single! The kind of “kooky” character who tells you to “embrace your weirdness!!! :P”, Cara has built an entire persona around being ©wild and crazy™, delighting her fans with zany antics like doing coke with London’s elite and taking cross-eyed selfies.
But now, ladies and gentlemen, she’s written a book! The blurb declares “Mirror Mirror” to be “a twisty coming-of-age novel about friendship and betrayal”. Obviously, I had no choice but to get my hands on a copy immediately. I was expecting troubled teens, illicit sex and a gripping storyline. And I’ll tell you this for free: I was quite disappointed.
I actually try to go in with an open mind (admittedly made difficult by my intense loathing for Cara Delevingne’s “weird and wacky” brand of cool), but I fall at the first hurdle. They say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but I honestly can’t help it. It consists of a grayscale fist clenched against a hideously garish yellow background, with the words “CARA DELEVINGNE” printed bigger than anything else. Above Delevingne’s name, the full title — “Mirror Mirror: A Novel”. (I can sense profound themes of reflection, double lives, secrets and lies). Below, the actual author, Rowan Coleman, is written in greyed-out letters.
The main premise of “Mirror Mirror” is simple: four misfit kids, just trying to find their place in the world. Rose: the beautiful one, confident on the outside, but broken on the inside; Red: the skinny ginger one, alcoholic mother, sleazy father, desperately in love with Rose; Naomi: the “punk rock princess” and Leo: the cool dude, and token black guy, (the fact Cara chose only him to have a family member in prison is not problematic at all.) Their band, Mirror Mirror, is the only place where they can be themselves. Why “Mirror Mirror”, you ask? Because their music is a reflection of their truest selves? Because they’re holding up a mirror to society? No. Because they’re “the fucking fairest of them all.”
But one day, Naomi suddenly vanishes — and is discovered later, unconscious, left for dead. Now the crew — Red, Leo, Rose and Nai’s sister Ash (who’s very helpfully a master coder at age 18, capable of hacking the city of London’s entire CCTV system!) — must try to uncover what happened to their friend. WHATEVER WILL HAPPEN? It’s honestly anyone’s guess. The inside cover reads:
“Cara Delevingne reveals another facet of her amazing talent with this powerful novel about identity, emotional pain, the complicated world of social media, and the dangerous weight of secrets.”
A deeply powerful storyline written by a multi-faceted talent. Cannot wait.
Barely a chapter in, and the book already becomes quite difficult to read. Over-punctuated and overflowing with rhetorical questions, Red’s first person narration is quite jarring. Cara really manages to master the subtle nuances of teenage angst through the repetitive use of the words “bullshit” and “fuck”.
Chapter 1 ends with the delightful lyrics to one of Mirror Mirror’s songs, “Where Did She Go?” in a clip-art style box accompanied inexplicably by a picture of tower bridge. The lyrics are v. poetic…
The first mention of pills comes on p. 36, as does the image of Red’s father being “tonsils deep in his latest shag”. I’m not even fully sure I know what that means, but it honestly sounds horrific. I can’t say any part of the book is particularly eloquent or descriptive; in fact, a large portion of it plays out over social media messenger conversations (bitmojis and all!). Delevingne (Coleman) also employs the use of Instagram posts and encrypted app chats to round out her narrative. This bricolage of intertextual references does not, however, illuminate the fullness of the teenage psyche; moreover, it’s fucking dull.
Chapter 7, p. 60 opens simply and sweetly with the words: “Fuck this.” Another highlight is Red’s “Fuck You Playlist”, including none other than “Make Me Wanna Die” by The Pretty Reckless — that angsty teen band ft. Jenny from Gossip Girl.
After Naomi’s aforementioned brush with death, Ash adopts a very “fuck the po-lice” mentality and attempts to solve the kidnapping/ attempted murder case single handedly (with occasional assistance from Red). By this point, I’m slowly losing the will to live, as the book turns from novelty to relentless drudgery. While Naomi is in coma, they not only realise someone has been cloning all of her Spotify playlists (!!) but also that she has acquired an unusual tattoo in the time she’s been missing (this is so unlike Naomi. She would never!). Later, Red happens to run into a girl at a gig who has the exact same tattoo (what are the chances?!). Then, Ash realises that the tattoo is actually a load of numbers! She unscrambles it somehow, runs it through a computer and lo and behold — it’s CODE. Code that leads them to a website on the dark web of girls being groomed by men. (By this point, I officially cannot.)
If you’re baffled by this sequence of events, you’re certainly not the only one. I also can’t help but question what sources Delevingne/Coleman consulted about what teenager’s lives are actually like today — “Eastenders”, perhaps? They certainly aren’t following the age-old adage of “writing what you know” — pretty sure there were no ex-convict brothers on the streets with guns in Belgravia.
The ultimate plot twist comes at p. 221 when I realise Red, the main character and narrator, is a girl. Up until this point, Red had been talking of wanting to look and act like Leo, and referring to the other two as “the girls” in the band. But all of a sudden she’s a she, and I’m shook. Did I just assume a character’s gender because of my own heteronormative preconceptions? I’m so disappointed in myself and forced to question just how woke I really am.
By now I’m nearing the end, both of my tether and the book. Luckily, it’s all about to kick off, and *SPOILER ALERT* — it was the teacher all along! Good old Mr. Smith. Who would have thought the handsome, supportive music teacher could be capable of:
Grooming his underage student, branding her with dark web code, chucking her in the Thames and cloning her spotify playlists
Who would have thought anyone could be capable of such a ludicrous and utterly bizarre series of crimes?
Of course, rather than handing over this evidence to the police, the kids decide to out him in a video compilation at the band’s gig! The police burst in and he’s caught. And Naomi wakes up from her coma immediately afterwards. Hooray. The day is saved.
In the wake of the #MeToo movement, Cara Delevingne’s completely incomprehensible novel about sexual grooming is definitely not what the world needed, nor asked for. Yes, it’s a teenage book, but teenagers deserve good literature. It’s not even a Twilight-esque guilty pleasure. There’s not even any sex in it.
Cara Delevingne, please stick to what you know!
“Mirror Mirror” by Cara Delevingne is published by HarperCollins and available at all “good” book stores.
A sequel might be forthcoming.