Watch out, Yomiko, here comes Tohko Amano
I was prompted to pop these two books to the top of my reading queue after reading this review of the second book at Erica Friedman’s blog. I’m glad I did, and I can’t wait for the third volume in the series to come out in August.
Book Girl and the Suicidal Mime
Tohko Amano is a “book girl”. She lives on books — devouring them. Literally and literately. She will read a page, then tear it out and chew it slowly, relishing the flavors and describing them in terms that would make a gourmet blush. The narrator of this novel teases her for being a “book-eating goblin”, but she is a charming one.
To feed her habit, she has ensnared Konoha Inoue, a first-year student as the only other member of her book-club. Every day after school she challenges him to write an improvisational story on a theme of her choosing, which she will then consume. To feed her taste for romantic adventure, she has installed a mailbox on the school-yard, with the note that “describe them for us, and the Book Club will solve your romantic problems”. Their first customer is a clumsy duckling of a first-year student who has a crush on a member of the archery club.
After hearing her story, Tohko tells her that the club (meaning the long-suffering Konoha) will provide her with love-letters that she can copy and send to her crush. The price: she is to write a report on how things go.
Konoha writes the letters, but soon grows curious. He asks a classmate, also in the archery club, about the boy the girl has a crush on, and finds that there is no one like that in the archery club. When he confronts the girl, she insists that the boy exists.
On further investigation, Tohko and Inoue discover that the boy committed suicide ten years earlier.
What follows is a mystery that resonates with ghosts in Inoue’s own past, that culminates in a harrowing scene dangling from a rooftop.
For Inoue does have ghosts, and they serve to make him a much more interesting narrator than seems common in light novels. The characterizations are well-done and believable (a far cry from the wordy affectless artificiality of Nisio Isin’s Zaregoto books, despite Tohko’s supernatural nature). Inoue can be almost as snarky as Haruhi Suzumiya’s Kyon, but with Tohko a far more charming character than Haruhi, I think the books may wear better with succeeding volumes.
Tohko is a delightful nerd, a book otaku.
The translation is superb — indeed, I ceased to be aware that I was reading a translation. Yen Press recommends the books for fifteen and up, probably because of the discussion of teenage suicide, but I don’t think it’s inappropriate for anyone over 12.
Continue reading ‘Book Girl and the double-layered mysteries’