Real World is the story of five teenagers – a boy who murders his mother and four confused girls.
The premise holds (some) promise, but there are several things wrong with this story. I cannot wrap my head around oh-so-many things. I am simply gonna break it down, and you can analyze the parts out of it.
Usually, if the book was originally written in a different language (in this case, Japanese) and I am reading a translation, I give it the benefit of the doubt – a lot can get lost from the original, and we cannot blame the author for it, because unless we read the book in its original language, we can’t find out if this is indeed how it was intended.
Let’s talk about the good: We have five characters, and there is a lot of darkness in this book. It can get depressing and it will cause you to think about topics such as suicide, angst, and the tough decisions teenagers sometimes have to make (like, in the case of one of the girls, her decision to come out as a lesbian).
Now let’s talk about the bad, which is everything else.
First and foremost, the boy – Worm. He murders his mother. There is all the evidence pointing to it. He admits it unabashedly to anyone who would listen. His face is plastered all over the internet. The news of the murder is all over the newspapers and TV. There are police officers and detectives swarming over the place. He keeps making calls to the four girls. He keeps stopping at convenience stores.
Tell me how does this boy outrun the “long arms of the law”? How does he escape so easily, without even trying hard? He didn’t even have a plan! Is it that easy to commit murder?
Next the girls. Oh dear, so. Many. Inner. Monologues! I mean, Why! Here’s how the whole book is narrated: Chapter 1: Girl 1: Part 1: Detailed description of who she is, how she is, why she is the way she is, how none of the other girls know this. All this is written in first person. The four girls Toshi, Terauchi, Kirarin and Yuzan hang out together and pretend to be best friends, but I think they also hate each other, cos the inner monologues actually sound like the voice of a self-centred, whiny bickerer. You don’t even read it with the guilty pleasure of sneaking into someone’s diary. I don’t know if that’s just bad translation, but think about this – there has been a murder. You’re all got pulled into the aftermath and are even being questioned. With this in mind – how is it possible for you all to be so self centred?
All the girls think they have “secret lives” (nothing hardcore – just regular stuff like secretly partying after school or whatever) but all the other girls can see right through them and think they know nothing about life.
Another thing which bothered me is the complete and utter hatred towards men. I understand the characters are angry – they were groped on public transport, and assaulted or hit on by boys who considered them to be “dumb girls” – horrible things that happen to girls all over the world, sadly. One of them was cheated on by her boyfriend, another is a lesbian – but the anger towards all men all over the world is so palpable that I am unable to distinguish between the voice of the author and the voice of the character(s). Yes, these sort of incidents make us all wary, but do we end up hating everyone? If a book so blatantly generalized and insulted women, we would not take it kindly, would we? I know I wouldn’t. For instance several writers and ancient philosophers were anti-women (all the religious texts come to mind). This is like that – but reversed. All I am saying is, same rules apply both ways – you do not denigrate whole groups based on the actions of a few. Also, one of the characters is so angry with her ex, that she gets Worm to call him up and threaten to rape the ex’s new girlfriend. So we have one character that murdered his mother, and another (a girl) who wants to get someone to rape another girl. This is all so messed up.
And in between all this hatred, all the girls want the attention of one boy – the murderer.
I am gonna let that settle in.
Yeah, so despite the fact that none of them really know him, they are so fascinated (WTF?) that they all help him out in one way or the other.
The dialogues in this book are so wooden, they don’t play out right in your head. The whole time I was going, “People don’t talk like this!” But that’s probably just the translation that’s bad.
This whole book is messed up YA. It is not noir or crime or anything – it hardly focuses on the crime – and I want to shout this out from rooftops! – it’s just YA that makes little sense.
Frankly, I had a lot of expectations from Natsuo Kirino, having heard a lot of good things about her. Maybe I should try some of her other works.