Review: Real World, Natsuo Kirino

Important update: Based on the two samples of this genre that I have read so far (this and The Thief, both by widely acclaimed Japanese authors), I have concluded that Japanese thriller mystery type books are not for me. I am not sure why I ever thought they were, given that I struggle with books in translation and I do not like thriller mystery type books above half.

Natsuo Kirino has been on several of the lists for A More Diverse Universe, with specific praise for her ability to write about the disaffection of teenagers in the modern world. (Red flag: I hate disaffected protagonists.) Real World is about four teenage girls who decide to help out a neighborhood boy, Worm, who has just beaten his mother to death with a baseball bat. (Greenish flag: I like reading about people who have done crimes and are waiting to see if they will be caught.) We hear from all the girls, and from Worm, in alternating chapters (green flag: I loooove multiple viewpoints), as they struggle to deal with the tedium and hypocrisy they encounter in their own lives, and as they become more and more enmeshed in Worm’s attempt to escape from the law.

These are the disaffectedest kids you ever saw, and I guess my tolerance for whiny protagonists is on the low side. Apart from Toshi, all these kids fall on the wrong side of the line. They’re angry with the adults in their lives for–as they see it–failing them: their parents for giving them unrealistic expectations of what their lives will be; their teachers for pretending to care about them; the creeps and salespeople who accost them on all sides as they move through the world.

To an extent, this is interesting to me. Past that extent, I start thinking, Oh boo flipping hoo, everybody’s got stuff to deal with. GROW UP. Which probably means I’d be one of the adults these kids would be happy to see disappear. The trick of writing about kids this age is that we (the readers) have gotten older and realized that everyone has to make compromises; and we know that the kids are going to eventually realize this too; and it can be a little tiresome to listen to them complain about it in the meantime.

Lesson learned: No more Japanese mystery thriller type books. Mysteries in translation are not likely to lead to an increase in love for mysteries or books in translation. They are only going to make me crabby probably.

(But I’m still going to read The Murder Farm before I finish with translated mysteries for good.)

This has been a read for Aarti’s A More Diverse Universe blogging event! (I intended it to be a read for Women in Translation Month, which was August, but my library hold didn’t arrive in time for that to happen. Luckily, Bibliobio is not the only blogger devoted to promoting diversity in the reading world!) If you haven’t yet, stop by Aarti’s sign-up page and see what everyone else has been reading!

  • Japanese fictions are either a hit or miss for me. I usually find their thrillers dark and disturbing. Some of them are great given the characterisations, but very often the grisly subjects just boggle my mind.

  • I’ve only read one Japanese mystery (Devotion of Suspect X), and it was fine, but I didn’t love it. It was a procedural-type mystery, which I don’t generally love in English.

    I have one of Kirino’s others books (Out) on my TBR because it sounds more like the kind of thing I like. The premise of this doesn’t appeal to me so much. I have the same problem you do reading about disaffected teenagers. I can get behind it for a while, but only for a while. It sometimes helps if I get the impression that the author knows the characters need to grow up a bit.

    I’ll be interested to hear what you think of The Murder Farm. I liked it a lot.

  • I have this feeling like translated mysteries aren’t my thing, either? Because I’ve read two Japanese mysteries and didn’t really like them. But then I remember how much I like The Club Dumas (which was translated from Spanish), so possibly it was just those two books I didn’t like maybe. idk????

  • aartichapati

    I totally get what you mean about writing books for adults about teens. It IS hard. This is why even YA can sometimes get on my nerves. I feel like they make such a big deal out of EVERYTHING 😉