Now that autumn is here, I long to stay inside in the cool evenings, sip warmed apple cider, wrap myself in a throw, and read a sweet, comforting book.
Instead, I read about murder, violence, sexuality, and alienation.
These are some of the themes in Real World, a dark tale about Japanese teenagers living in a suburb of Tokyo. Written by Natsuo Kirino, published in 2003, and translated into English by Philip Gabriel in 2008, this short novel tells the story of four teenage girls, Toshi, Terauchi, Yuzan, and Kirarin, and a boy called Worm. Each resents society and their parents and has something to hide. When Toshi's neighbor, Worm, goes on the run after being suspected of matricide, the girls initially react with empathy and even fascination, rather than repulsion or fear. They are quickly drawn into Worm's world, and I was also pulled in. In this modern Japanese novel, multiple voices tell the story; each chapter is told from the point of view of one of the teenagers in this group. They take turns and each character describes the action as well as their thoughts and histories.
This is a chilling book for several reasons. These teenagers seem to be okay on the outside, and some even do well in "cram school", but they're all wearing masks which hide their true feelings and identities (some even have changed their names). As they transition from children to adults, they become disillusioned and seem to be utterly lost. Natsuo Kirino captures the essence of teenage angst and isolation in this novel--and it's taken to a terrifying extreme. The girls communicate with Worm by cell phone and want him to elude the law. They're on his side, and even applaud his actions. His world is exciting and fresh to them--a new world--and he enjoys his elevated status with the girls. These girls are not "bad", but tired of the restraints of society, and confused, forlorn, and isolated--and headed for disaster. I have not read that much crime fiction before, and this is my first taste of Japanese crime fiction. It will not be my last.
For another review of Real World, visit The Reading Life.
Spooky thanks to Carl V. from Stainless Steel Droppings for hosting R.I.P. IV.
Thanks to Meredith from Dolce Bellezza for hosting the Japanese Literature Challenge-3. As I've mentioned before, this challenge has opened up a new world of reading to me.