Real World - Natsuo Kirino

Since I signed up for the Japanese Literature Challenge I have been looking for new novels to read. I really enjoyed the novels, Out and Grotesque by Natsuo Kirino, so I decided to read Real World.

Genre: Fiction, Japanese, Thriller
Publisher: Vintage Books
Year: 2003
Rating: 3/5

In a suburb on the outskirts of Tokyo, four teenage girls drift through a hot smoggy August and tedious summer school classes. There's dependable Toshi, brainy Terauchi, Yuzan, grief-stricken and confused, and Kirarin, whose late nights and reckless behaviour remain a secret from those around her.

Then Toshi's next-door neighbour is found brutally murdered and the girls suspect Worm, the neighbour's son and a high-school misfit. But when he disappears (having stolen Toshi's bike and mobile) the four girls become irresistibly drawn into a treacherous vortex of brutality and seduction which rises from within themselves as well as the world around them.

Like the previous two Kirino books I have read, this book did not hold back any punches. It was a raw, honest and chilling look at the darker side of Japanese society.

Toshi, Terauchi, Yuzan and Kirarin are typical teenage girls. Self-obsessed, struggling with their own issues - lesbianism, identity, the loss of a parent, the burden of being made to deal with adult issues before ready. Each of these girls is completely lost in their own world, oblivious to their friends suffering and believing that no one could possibly understand what they are going through.

When Worm murders his mother and goes on the run, each of these girls finds themselves drawn into his world. A world that he took control of and chose, rather than being stuck with the helplessness and loss that they feel. 

When Worm contacts these girls using Toshi's mobile, each one is enthralled in their own way. But the consequences of their decisions are something that they do not think of and before they know it, their lives are changed forever. 

I enjoyed this book. It didn't grip me in the same way Out did or leave me feeling as disturbed as Grotesque, but it was still a good read. 

I keep pondering over the title of this book. Real World. Is this really the real world? 

In one respect I think yes. The feelings these teenage girls displayed, their sense of loss, misunderstanding and hopelessness I think are all too common amongst the teens. Would that really lead a person to aid and abet a murderer? Possibly. I guess that would depend on the person. 

While reading this book I got the feeling that these girls just didn't really think too hard about what they were doing, why they were doing it and the consequences of their actions. So in that respect, that is very 'teenage' behaviour. Of course I am not labeling all teenagers with this stereotype, but I feel that the emotions and issues raised in this book are more common than we realise. Not just in Japan, but all over the world.

This isn't a happy story. You won't put down this book feeling cheerful. You won't get an ending that is heartwarming. But you will see the world of adolescents in a different way. 

Although extreme, some truth lurks between these pages.
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