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REAL WORLD by Natsuo Kirino


by Natsuo Kirino & translated by Philip Gabriel

Pub Date: July 18th, 2008
ISBN: 978-0-307-26757-3
Publisher: Knopf

From Kirino (Grotesque, 2007, etc.), a tale of teens driven to extremes.

Toshi is getting ready to go to cram school—summer drill sessions to help her get into a good college—when she hears the sound of breaking glass coming from the house next door to hers in a nice Tokyo suburb. Later, she discovers that her neighbor—a boy she calls “Worm”—killed his mother that morning, and that he has stolen her bicycle and her cell phone. She keeps what she knows from the police, but she tells her three best friends. Narrated in alternating voices, this novel relays the story of five young people who fail to navigate the dangers of adolescence. The fact that their brutal idiocy varies in quantity, rather than in quality, from that of the typical teen should be a source of horror as events spin irretrievably out of control. The grandiose self-pity and sheer foolishness of these kids is believable but frustrating: The desire to take away their texting privileges and send them to bed without supper quickly overtakes the desire to keep reading. At the same time, the language in which their dialogue is rendered is often stiff and unconvincing. Even in a culture that places a high value on scholastic testing, it’s hard to believe that kids would use vocabulary-test words like “blithely” and “dumbfounded” in their internal monologues. And, in the moments before Worm first decides to kill his mother, the worst epithet he can muster is “old bag.” Like teens pretty much everywhere, Japanese kids are known for their inventive patois; one would hope that a kid driven to matricide could muster a lively expletive or two.