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IDOL, BURNING by Rin Usami Kirkus Star


by Rin Usami ; translated by Asa Yoneda

Pub Date: Nov. 15th, 2022
ISBN: 978-0-06-321328-9
Publisher: HarperVia

An accusation against her favorite J-pop idol upends an unstable teen’s world.

Akari, a high school junior in Japan, wakes up one morning to the dreadful rumor that Masaki Ueno has assaulted a female fan. She is devastated: To her, Masaki is not simply a member of the popular group Maza Maza, he is her oshi, in whom she finds meaning and around whom she organizes her life. Akari has always had difficulty with her schoolwork, her family situation is tense, and she gets easily overwhelmed by the responsibilities of her job at a restaurant. When it comes to Masaki, however, she is dedicated and organized: She copies down every word he utters in public in binders, interacts with other superfans through her popular blog, and spends most of her earnings on band merch and memorabilia. Other people ridicule Akari’s dedication to this one-sided relationship, but she insists that she doesn’t see anything wrong with it because she doesn’t expect anything in return. Akari is content to devote herself to Masaki from a distance, wanting to understand him fully and “to see the world through his eyes.” As the assault threatens Masaki’s future in the band and as a celebrity, Akari becomes further unmoored; she feels as though her future and well-being are inextricably tied to Masaki’s own: “I need to give him everything, I thought. It's all I have. It was my cross to bear. Believing in him was how I lived.” Akari’s obsession is fatalistic and intense, and Usami’s prose (translated by Yoneda) renders it and the hold it has on her tenuous life ably and affectingly. While the intensity of the fandom and what it entails may seem outlandish to some, it will especially resonate with readers familiar with real-life superfandoms such as One Direction's at the height of its fame, down to details such as sought-after exclusive merch and hateful online comments sections.

A short, engrossing novel that captures the essence of obsessive fandom.