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I Want to Kick You in the Back

3.28  ·  Rating details ·  536 ratings  ·  65 reviews
A winner of Japan's prestigious Aktugawa Prize for rising literary talent, I Want to Kick You in the Back follows Hatsu, who is in her first year of high school and having a hard time fitting in with her classmates. She meets Ninagawa, an outcast who is obsessed with a model/pop idol but who has no interest in the actual girls around him. Gradually, Hatsu develops an impul ...more
Hardcover, 199 pages
Published April 14th 2015 by One Peace Books (first published August 2003)
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Average rating 3.28  · 
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Sep 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: japanese short stories
I Want to Kick You in the Back is a short novella about a young girl who is struggling to find her place in school and to handle her relationships. As someone who was a loner in school, I could identify with Hatsu and her difficulty to join her classmates and form friendships. Hatsu is determined to be set aside and highlight her individuality while thirsty to fit in and be noticed. Would I have wanted to read more about her, yes, but still, the book pretty much captured how the main heroine fel ...more
Although I read the Japanese original soon after Wataya won the Akutagawa Prize—Japan’s most prestigious literary award for promising writers—with this novella in 2003, I didn’t recall much more than that it was a convincing depiction of high school life: the alienation, the cliques, the teachers, the solipsistic smallness of life. One example:
“You always try hard during practice, Hasegawa, so you’re sure to improve with time.”
He [the teacher] said it with such confidence, that despite myself, h
Jun 25, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: japanese-fiction
This is a zero-star translation of a five-star book. To say I'm disappointed is an understatement. The style in the translation is inconsistent and there are awkward grammatical structures and spelling errors. The translator also managed to make each character completely two-dimensional. Very impressive.

Struck by lightening? Really?

I skimmed the original Japanese text, which is much more engaging. The characters are more believable and pathetic. I hope Wataya considers using a different translat
I liked the book, but I couldn't understand the desire to kick that back. I was reminded of how there always seems to be some weird and not-quite-understandable element in most Japanese books I've come across. I did enjoy reading it though, especially the honest, no-nonsense style, and the chance of a sneak peek into the life of Japanese high-school students.
Laura D
Sep 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
Convincing depiction of the isolation, alienation and friend group of high school life. I can totally relate to the desire to kick someone in the back
Iza Brekilien
Reviewed for Books and livres

My main problem with this book is that Hatsu is a teenager : she doesn't really know what she wants, she has a superiority complex toward her classmates, she might be attracted to a boy but she might not, she is sullen, she is uncomfortable with people rejecting her but she is doing most of the rejecting and so on.
Her friend Kinuyo is more open but she's not really bright, the boy she has a crush on (?), Ninagawa, is obsessed (bordering stalkerish) about a pop-star w
Jenn Odd
Feb 07, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
**Intriguing story ruined by poor writing/translation**

Thank goodness this book is short because it was a struggle to read.

I was intrigued by the story of an adolescent girl funnelling her frustration and loneliness into a sadistic desire to bully someone else. I'm sure most people who have been bullied recognise that desire to feel powerful by manipulating others. Just a shame the translation was so poor.

I first thought the voice of a young girl was perfect, but this characterization was quickl
Jul 06, 2017 rated it liked it
This was good, but I'll probably have forgotten a lot of it in a month. I like that she was able to portray an unusual but convincing sort of affection between people who are drawn to but don't necessarily like one another. It's nice to be reminded that teenagers can be written to have nuanced relationships amongst all the Bella Swan crap that's out there.

Chris says there are translation issues, and I choose to believe him because this thing doesn't read very well at all. There are also a ton of
Jul 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
If you'd like to look into the mind of a Japanese teenager, this would be a great place to start. Wataya wrote this novel, her second, as a university student, and you can tell. The intense introspection and the Every Little Thing Means Something mentality are hallmarks of being a young adult, and her use of metaphors -- often quite charming and/or striking -- is something that a lot of older writers give up on. In the United States, this could probably pass as a YA novel. Think of it as a Japan ...more
Istvan Zoltan
This is a very pleasant, quick read. It is well paced, the characters have their likable, funny as well as their awkward sides. It takes you back to late elementary school/early school: the insecurity, lack of confidence, the envy when you see your friends finding their identity and way ahead, worries about others' opinions while also trying to berate them so you don't care about their opinions... The book deals with all this but the tone and storytelling is quite charming and has a light air. I ...more
Becca Sayre
May 10, 2020 rated it liked it
A brief dive into the peculiar mind of an introverted Japanese highschool student.
Short, light, perfect as an afternoon read.
Taylor Drew
"Loneliness makes a sound."

This story has a promising concept and an interesting title. The first line packs a real punch and I really wanted to like it - but I couldn't. Whether this is a problem that lies in the source text or in the translation, I'm not really sure, but this book was unfortunately not for me.

While the story is obviously tackling the difficulties of youth, absolutely none of the multiple characters are fleshed out and changes are sudden and without build up. As a case in point
Sep 06, 2020 rated it liked it
I didn't connect with the characters in this book. They weren't developed enough and the writing wasn't good enough to keep me interested, but I've found out that the English translation doesn't do the author's work justice at all. That's such a shame. There were lots of typos in the book, so I'm not entirely surprised, however. It just goes to show how important finding a good translator is.
3,5 rounded up to 4.

I read this book once, in French, when I was in high school (so years ago) and I remember I found "it was kinda weird but I liked it". Now that I've read it again in Japanese... I still agree with my younger self.

Most of all, I really liked the writing. Wataya Risa was 19 when she got the Akutagawa Prize (the most prestigious Japanese literary prize) for this book, and man, can she write. I wish I could write half as well at my age! Her style is simple, easy to read but still
I thought the first half was very interesting. This book deals with the themes of loneliness and being secluded from others (specifically in high school). It deals with two characters, the main character and her interaction with a boy. It begins with them being the only ones that don't have a group in science class, both because neither of them have any friends to group together with and from there they start interacting more...
It's definitely not your typical outcasts meet-each other kind of st
John Lineberger
Nov 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is the most refreshing YA novel I've read in six or seven years. Although the English translation has some grammar and spelling issues, the characters come alive vividly. The real strong suit of this novella is the psychological depth Wataya achieves in these struggling teenagers. The plot is often strange, with lots of quirky dark humor that I've found to be a trend in the handful of Japanese literature I've read. To think that the author was only 19 when she wrote this is amazing, and yet ...more
Nov 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
readathon17 book 50: a book taking place somewhere you would like to live (japaaan)

First I noticed the awesome cover. Then I saw it was a japanese author and she won the famous japanese award (you know, the one mentioned in 1Q84 :) )
So I bought it!
It is a novella about a teenage girl, a loner, who starts hanging out with another loner boy in high-school, who is totally obsessed with a top-model.
It was a nice book, it had some very good parts where the girl is wondering about her life, why she do
Bronwen Griffiths
Nov 02, 2017 rated it liked it
A novella about the relationship between a teenage girl and a boy in her class - both of whom are outsiders. I liked how Wataya described their relationship - the awkwardness, friendship and tenderness. I have only given it three stars - although I considered giving it four - as it's a slight book - not just in length but in depth. Perhaps I might have given it four stars if I had been a younger reader.
Nov 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: japanese-writers
This intriguing little book raised so many different reactions in my heart and my body. I still wonder how....

Most people are in the mainstream of society. So few people are on the fringe. But even less are the people in-between. If we master the art to be in-between, we could really enjoy this world in a wider spectrum. Anyway, I don't think that this is what the book is about. I still wonder what....
Oct 08, 2018 rated it liked it
As with most Japanese-translated books I read, this book is weird in its own little ways... Nevertheless, there's quite a bit of hidden subtext that I liked because it explored the characters' psycho-emotional states in a very real manner. Kudos to that! It kind of sucked that the story ended this abruptly though, would've loved to see whatever happened to Hatsu and Ninagawa after the concert.
3.5 stars

Not the most fantastic book ever and I didn't care about the plot itself, but I don't think that's the point with this book anyway. Wataya did a pretty good job describing high school outsiders, and especially Hatsu was a pretty interesting (albeit slightly infuriating) character imho.
Ananti Wungudita
May 21, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: japanese
Being obsessed is scary indeed, but being alienated in a class is the same. Having someone who understands lift some burdens I guess. I don’t know if it’s about bad translation or I just don’t enjoy reading it that much.
Jan 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
A very quick read, the narrating style reminded me a lot of the Catcher in the rye. I wasn´t expecting much given the poor ratings for the English translation, but I was pleasantly surprised.
Jan 14, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
An enjoyable novella about adolescent life, isolation and self-discovery. Not sure I understood the feelings involved, but then again, isn't that the whole idea of being an adolescent?
what a weird little book o.O
Shafa Salsabiela
Jul 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Stephen Douglas Rowland
Mar 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
Risa Wataya wrote this short novel when she was 19 years old, and took home the Akutagawa Prize for her effort, making her the youngest ever recipient. And she definitely deserved it. It's a unique, original work that is both hilarious and filled with painful truths. Whoever edited this, however, should be shot. Heinous typos and grammatical errors abound. SHAME. Read it anyway.
A tsundere girl goes moe on an otaku. Ugh, kick him or kiss him??? Grrr!
The background, is being lonely in highschool, torn between staying that way and shooting down any chance to change. Some sort of adolescence interrupted, other people grow up but not me, why? Of course we know why the other outcast is an outcast, easy to tell when it's someone else, but us, point of view character, we don't do that analysis on ourselves. Just drop some hints here and there. Maybe we'll come out of this tog
Nov 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing
(copied from my review on the original Japanese version on Goodreads, because I like it too much)

The relationship dynamics between the two main characters must be one of the most unique relationships I've ever encountered in literature, something I can't put a name to. Is it friendship, or is it some sort of twisted adolescent romantic feelings? It is probably neither, but the connection between two kids having a difficult time connecting with anybody else in the world. Wataya Riisa's writing is
Nov 27, 2015 rated it really liked it
Strange. I don't know how closely this resembles the typical emotional experience of Japanese youth, but it was interesting.

I'm not sure I understand why it won so many prizes, but then, it is possible that something was lost in translation.

Overall, reads fast and dissimilar from pretty much everything else in the written word.
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Risa Wataya (綿矢 りさ, born February 1, 1984) is a female Japanese novelist from Kyoto.

Wataya graduated from Murasakino High School in Kyoto.
Her first novella, Install, written when she was 17, was awarded the 38th Bungei Prize. She graduated from Waseda University in Tokyo. Her thesis focused on the structure of Osamu Dazai's Hashire merosu (走れ、メロス Run, Melos!). Wataya rose to fame in 2003 upon rece

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  Tami Charles is a former teacher and the author of picture books, middle grade and young adult novels, and nonfiction. As a teacher, she made...
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