In a crowded residential suburb on the outskirts of Tokyo, four teenage girls indifferently wade their way through a hot, smoggy summer and endless “cram school” sessions meant to ensure entry into good colleges. There’s Toshi, the dependable one; Terauchi, the great student; Yuzan, the sad one, grieving over the death of her mother—and trying to hide her sexual orientation from her friends; and Kirarin, the sweet one, whose late nights and reckless behavior remain a secret from those around her. When Toshi’s next-door neighbor is found brutally murdered, the girls suspect the killer is the neighbor’s son, a high school boy they nickname Worm. But when he flees, taking Toshi’s bike and cell phone with him, the four girls get caught up in a tempest of dangers—dangers they never could have even imagined—that rises from within them as well as from the world around them.
Psychologically intricate and astute, dark and unflinching, Real World is a searing, eye-opening portrait of teenage life in Japan unlike any we have seen before.
In Natsuo Kirino’s Real World, life is very bleak for five Japanese high school kids. There is little warmth and room for happiness. One of them kills his mother and the other four help him escape in a fruitless attempt to deal with their own emotional issues. They treated the murder of the mother as if it were a justifiable venting out of a resentful teenager. The father of the boy murderer went around the neighborhood apologizing for his son, saying he will do his best to save his son’s soul. I doubt he will succeed, and I doubt I will find a soul in this book that will resonate with mine.
As I read this book, I felt as if the world inside the book was an oppressing grey cloud and not even the electric lights of Akihabara can penetrate it. I don’t understand this kind of coldness. But maybe I am already far too removed from my own high school angst that I have forgotten so much of the intensity that sometimes lead to a kind of dullness of the spirit. Thank goodness for that.
If I had read this book in high school… *shudders*