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Kirino, Natsuo - 'Real World' (translated by Philip Gabriel)
Paperback: 224 pages (Sep. 2008) Publisher: Vintage ISBN: 0099523191

In a Tokyo suburb, Toshi, one of a group of four teenage girls, is disturbed by a noise from next door. Later in the day she finds out that the high school misfit living next door has murdered his mother, and has go on the run with Toshi's bicycle and mobile phone. When he starts ringing numbers from the phone the girls become drawn or rush unthinkingly into an increasingly unstable situation which they don't all survive.

Each of the eight chapters is related from the point of view of one of the five teenagers (the murderous boy and two of the girls get two chapters each). These read as if they've been written down after the event, but it becomes evident that they're not.

The characters are mostly self-pitying and overly aware that they are the centre of the universe, answerable to no-one (they are teenagers, after all) and the book is very much like watching a slow motion car crash (literally at one point), and portrays Japanese teenagers as pretty much totally alienated from society, family, and to a great extent their so-called friends (each of the allegedly close group of four girls thinks she's successfully keeping secrets from the other three, but isn't).

The translation is smooth and invisible. It's not a comfortable read, but it is compelling. And it passed the "Read the first ten pages in the shop and buy it to read on the train home" test.

Rik Shepherd, England
January 2009

More crime fiction reviews can be found on the Reviews page.

last updated 1/01/2009 17:21