Publication Date: July 15, 2008
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A stunning new work of the feminist noir that Natsuo Kirino defined and made her own in her novels Out and Grotesque.
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.
Natsuo Kirino, born in 1951, is the author of eighteen novels, four short-story collections, and an essay collection. She is the recipient of six of Japan’s premier literary awards, including the Mystery Writers of Japan Award for Out and the Izumi Kyoka Prize for Literature for Grotesque. Her work has been translated into nineteen languages, and several of her books have been turned into movies. Out was the first of her novels to appear in English and was nominated for an Edgar Award. She lives in Tokyo.
Praise for Natsuo Kirino’s Real World
“Disquieting and suspenseful. . . . As Dostoyevsky did in Crime and Punishment, Kirino pushes her antihero to murder as a means of philosophical statement and communicates an authorial anxiety that contemporary social ills will destroy humanity.” –The New York Times Book Review
“Disturbingly intimate. . . . Unflinching. . . . [Kirino’s characters] speak as one voice of youth in an utterly hypnotic, illuminating narrative.” –The Miami Herald
“Transfixing. . . . [Kirino] reevaluates a teenager’s place in today’s world. . . . Real World is not exactly a thriller, a mystery or a whodunit. It’s a psychologically complex story told in a breezy, adolescent way, reminiscent of Bonjour Tristesse.” –The Philadelphia Inquirer
“Brilliant feminist noir. . . . A sleek, assured and disturbing novel about four young women who get caught up in the aftermath of a murder. . . . Reads like Little Women in an acid bath. . . . You won’t want to miss it.” –The Cleveland Plain Dealer
“Instead of one lone maniac, Kirino makes adolescent ennui and detachment the villain, tracing out a spooky cultural phenomenon that makes [Real World] a purely psychological thriller.” –Time Out Chicago
“Jealousy, solipsism, fear, arrogance–the mind of an adolescent can be a frustrating and scary place. . . . [Real World] takes us deep inside the heads of these kids.” –Los Angeles Times Book Review
“If Real World is indeed a work of social realism, Kirino is either a masterful cynic or the cartographer of a very scary side of reality.” –The New York Sun
“It’s rare to come across a book that is unlike anything you’ve ever read. Real World is such a book. . . . Kirino’s mix of the savage and the mundane is masterful. . . . Hers is a fresh, contemporary voice that captures the attitude of youth culture around the world. . . . An addictive, compelling read.” –Daily Camera (Boulder)
“Kirino delves deeply into the feelings of isolation and hopelessness that each girl shares. . . . She works to understand how the girls can become so disassociated from their own moral center, ultimately insinuating that after being raised in a culture of texting, reality shows, etc., they’re looking for any connection to the feeling world.” –Providence Journal
“Impressive. . . . [Real World’s] sinister plot provides Kirino with plenty of welcome occasions to render the acute psychosexual portraiture at which she so excels. . . . Kirino’s high-toned crime-fiction is, above all, morbidly fascinating.” –The Tennessean
“[A] taut thriller. . . . [Kirino] has a knack for portraying the lives of teenage girls.” –More
“Kirino creates a fictional universe in which the normal rules of engagement no longer apply. Through Worm, she chronicles the toxic fall-out of an educational system that fosters conformity above individualism. . . . And Philip Gabriel’s excellent translation helps to bring this lurid tale into even sharper focus.” –The Independent (UK)
“Bleak, exquisitely imagined. . . . Real World is not a whodunit but a disturbing whydunit. . . . A novel of murder most creepy.” –The Georgia Straight (Vancouver)
“Real World is unusual: a thriller with a strong moral overtone, it begins with violence and ends with regret. . . . It’s [Kirino’s] portrayal of typically teenaged double-triple lives that makes this story so successful and so disturbing. It's not the murder, but the reaction to it that will strike fear into the hearts of readers. . . . It will engage people everywhere–men and women, young and old–because Kirino is an extremely talented writer with a style that is unmistakably her own, even in translation.” –The Gazette (Montreal)
“Kirino offers a dark view of the world rarely found in books by women authors. . . . [Her characters] are people suffering from the dehumanizing of society itself, not from mere teenage angst.” –The Post and Courier (Charleston)
“To read a novel by Natsuo Kirino is to make a pact with truth–a clever, stark, brutal reality that has little room for trivialities like affection and warmth. . . . [In Real World,] the drama spirals outward until it is unclear what is more perverse–a brutal killing or the smaller acts of social cruelty that both teenagers and adults commit daily and without remorse.” –Geek Monthly
“Feverish. . . . Real World is more than just a crime novel. . . . Kirino challenges the reader to decide: Is existence and reality found in cyberspace, in death, in the family, in murder, in suicide, or in friendship?” –Japan Times
“Kirino demands total submission to her characters’ inner lives. . . . Rather than crafting a simple crime novel or painting a grotesque portrait of people ruled by perverse desires and criminal hearts, Kirino’s narrative challenges readers to confront the truth of human nature, to release judgments about violence and see beyond the act to its roots.” –The Honolulu Advertiser