A Japanese housewife is beaten to death. Her son, nicknamed Worm, having fled with the neighbor's bike and phone, becomes the main suspect. So begins Natsuo Kirino's third novel available in English, Real World, a set of dark psychological portraits of five Japanese teenagers.
In each chapter a different character--Worm, his neighbor Toshi, or one of her friends--picks up the first-person narration. The plot moves surprisingly well given this technique. As each girl reacts differently to the fugitive Worm, we are thrust into a different "real world." Although the language is simple (possibly reflecting the narrator's age or translation), I genuinely felt that the isolation, anguish, and pain of each character very much reflected her reality. However, I couldn't help but feel less than sympathetic for the whole lot who could not see anything real outside of themselves. I can't vouch for whether this is an accurate depiction of modern Japanese teenage life, but this book is a fast, psychologically intricate read.
originally posted at pbs