Monday, February 11, 2019
Real World by Natsuo Kirino
It's a normal morning in Tokoyo for Ninna Hori. It's very hot and she's hurrying, as usual, to make it in time to her cram school which she attends during school vacations to make sure she can get into college. She thinks she hears something crash in the house next door but doesn't do anything about it. Although they are her neighbors, there's no neighborly feeling between the two families. There is the married couple who seem to put on airs and their teenage son, whom Ninna has nicknamed The Worm. She sees him periodically but he's never said a word to her. He is supposed to be brilliant, or at least that's the story his mother tells everyone.
As Ninna heads to the subway station, she sees Worm, and he even speaks to her. She asks him about the crash but he says all is well. Ninna heads on to school and as the day goes on, discovers her phone is missing. She assumes she left it at home in her hurry. When she gets back to the train station, though, her bike is also missing.
She gets a call and then realizes that Worm has stolen both items from her. More than that, he has a huge secret; before leaving home he killed his mother. Ninna calls her three close friends and tells them all about it but soon Worm is calling each of them as well. The friends seem intrigued and soon they are helping Worm in his escape. There is Yuzan, who is struggling with the fact that she is gay and wondering how to come out to her family and friends. Kirarin is the happy go lucky member of the group, but internally she feels excluded by the secrets she hides about going clubbing and hooking up with strangers. Terauchi is the brains of the group but feels remote from the rest of her friends and her family due to a family situation she can't resolve. As Worm attempts to hide out and escape, the alienation and angst that each of the girls also fights becomes a microcosm of teenage years.
Natsuo Kirino is a popular mystery novelist in Japan. She has won six of the country's most prestigious literary awards and as her work has been translated into nineteen languages, she has garnered other awards, such as an Edgar nomination. She provides a light into the alienation and worry that faces those in Japanese society and the reaching for connection that often seems to go unanswered. This book is recommended for mystery readers.