Real World - Natsuo Kirino One Murder + Four Girls = What is going on?

Toshi's neighbor has just killed his mother and stolen her cellphone and bike. Now, he is calling all the girls in her contact list. As "Worm" does, Toshi, Yuzan, Kirarin, and Terauchi begin to learn something new about themselves and their world and how they fit in.

This is one of those books that, when I've finished reading, I go, "Huh?" The writing itself isn't bad (although I can't judge that too harshly as it is an English translation and who knows what the original was like). The insight into a teenager's life in Japan was insightful and somewhat scary. The level of detail into these girls is admirable. And yet, I spent most of my time wondering how this could be called a psychological thriller and wondering when something would actually happen.

Our cast of characters are filled with some of the dumbest I've ever seen. I can understand Toshi not telling the cops in the beginning about hearing the murder, but when Worm starts calling these girls from Toshi's stolen cellphone, not a one even remotely considers telling the police. Instead, each girl tends to relate her melodramatic story in startling clarity and to dish on her three other friends in equally startling clarity.

For instance, we start with Toshi, the girl who hears the murder. She doesn't initially say anything (which I don't blame 100% as she at first didn't realize the repercussions and was scared of the attention), instead complaining about how adults' want to control her life. It really gets weird with Yuzan, who actually helps Worm by giving him her bike and a cellphone. I don't even really understand why, even if she was a repressed lesbian who lost her mother. Terauchi comes off as far too introspective for her age, and Kirarin tags along with Worm because that's what she does: flirts and hooks up with guys. As for Worm, I felt he was a hideous character that was constantly changing (at first happy to kill his mother, then a pervert, then an asexual soldier...he literally seemed to change every other page). I suppose if there had been one character that made a choice I could understand 100% and empathize with, I might have liked this book better.

The plot is agonizingly slow and really doesn't go anywhere. You find out within 30 pages who the killer is and then must follow him as he runs away. There is no tension, no wondering if the police are getting closer to catching Worm, no wondering if one of the girls is going to turn him in (they consider it briefly and dismiss it almost before it becomes a full-fledged thought). There is no scene where Worm talks with the girls and makes them wonder what their purpose is (thus providing the "psychological" aspect of the book). Instead, the girls seem to immediately want to discuss their place in the world with the barest of suggestion, and it doesn't seem too contingent on Worm's murdering his mother in the first place. Which makes me wonder why bother (until the end, that is). And while the book is "psychological" in some places, I scratch my head in wondering how this could be considered a "mystery". The killer is given in the first few pages and catching him never seems to be a push of the novel. So what is the mystery? The Real World? That seems a little deceptive, if you ask me.

However, I did like how it gave each of the four girls real fears. Toshi feared being out of control; Yuzan feared her sexuality; Terauchi feared herself; Kirarin feared relationships with men. Imbued in each is an intricate backstory of how their parents and surroundings made them to be the teenagers they are in this book.

There aren't many curses used here (I wonder if that is due to the translation), but there is quite a bit of sex (one girl has had sex and does so during the 208 page count, though never in graphic terms) and the violence factor is kinda high (sexual assault, violent murder, high body count).

While I did find myself lost and confused much of the time, I did enjoy getting a better insight into the life of a Japanese teenaged girl. This is an interesting book, though I wouldn't necessarily recommend to everyone as it is dark, disturbing, and somewhat deceptive (a mystery? Really?).