March 03, 2009

Books: Real World by Natsuo Kirino

Worm is a nobody, just another teenager of average intelligence struggling with the pressures of Japanese high school life, yet largely ignored by the world at large. Things change when he bludgeons his own mother to death ~ suddenly he is the focus the news, Internet chat and the media in general. More importantly he manages to become the focus of attention of four teenage girls. Toshi, his quiet and sensible neighbour overhears the crime being committed and he steals her bike and mobile phone as he makes his getaway from the scene. He then proceeds to contact three of her friends and they each, in their own way, become complicit in his attempt to stay hidden from the police.

Real World is the third novel by Natsuo Kirino to be translated into English, hot on the heels of the success of Out and Grotesque. A slimmer volume than its predecessors, the pace of the narrative is unrelenting as the drama unfolds. As with the above-mentioned novels, there is no mystery as to who has committed the crime. Rather the reader's attention is drawn to the way in which the main protagonists interact with society and come to terms with the events around them. In this sense, Real World is as much a coming-of-age novel as it is crime novel, with Worm and the four girls all struggling to discover their place in a modern society that doesn't really seem to care about their existence. Both entertaining and disturbing, Real World deserves a read.

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