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Real World Hardcover – Bargain Price, July 15, 2008


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf (July 15, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307267571
  • ASIN: B005UVUKEA
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.1 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,212,446 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School–A dark tale of teen angst and despair in suburban Tokyo. Through alternating first-person narratives, four girls and one boy tell a story of murder and deception. Descriptions of the hot, humid summer enhance the oppressive feeling of the novel. Characters are well drawn and real, though not always sympathetic–they make life-altering mistakes, dont trust or confide in adults, and are absorbed in their individual worlds. Kirino offers insight into the teens through chapters that read like diary entries as they divulge the deepest secrets, fears, and longings of Toshi, Terauchi, Yuzan, Kirarin, and the boy they call Worm. Readers glimpse at the cliques, social pressures, and academic expectations endured by adolescents in contemporary Japan. Alternating narration sets a fast pace but can be jarring. With five different voices, readers sometimes have to backtrack to figure out who is telling the story. Nevertheless, the technique is effective for evoking an unsettled atmosphere and reinforcing the chaos of life in the Real World. Prominent themes in this psychological thriller include alienation from parents, secret identities, matricide, and complicated relationships even among friends–which is your real self? Two dark surprises at the end of the novel are shocking but not unrealistic. This book will appeal to readers who enjoy teenage problem novels, as well as manga fans interested in Japanese culture.–Sondra VanderPloeg, Colby-Sawyer College, New London, NH
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Bookmarks Magazine

Natsuo Kirino’s latest noir thriller, a grim look at teen culture, elicited varying reactions from critics. Kirino focuses intently on her characters’ inner lives as she delves deeply into their nihilist worldviews and feelings of alienation. But some critics found the angst-ridden, self-absorbed teens melodramatic and unconvincing, their slang-studded dialogue often cringe-worthy. Tension mounts as narrators shift and events are gradually revealed from different perspectives; however, some reviewers considered the plot depressing and predictable. Instead of a suspenseful crime novel, Real World may function better as an examination of contemporary youth coming of age in a world of chat rooms, text messages, and reality TV who will cling to anything that connects them, however tenuously, to what they perceive as the “real” world.
Copyright 2008 Bookmarks Publishing LLC

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Customer Reviews

One review I read compared the book to Dostoevsky.
Amazon Customer
The plot is agonizingly slow and really doesn't go anywhere.
Crystal Starr Light
Great character development with a totally new backdrop.
Amazron

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

37 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Robert Aarhus on July 18, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Natsuo Kirino's "Real World" is a Japanese coming-of-age story with sobering twists. She has structured her narrative as a relay race between the major players: each character takes her or his turn from the first-person perspective describing the ongoing action, discussing their thoughts and motivations, and revealing their not-so-pretty histories.

The high school girls of "Real World", though markedly different individually, have a few things in common. They worry about school. They talk about relationships. They all think they are hiding something from each other when in fact their fears, flaws, and sexual practices are all too obvious to their peers. Above everything else, they loathe their parents.

Therefore it is not surprising that, when a teenage boy outside their circle goes on the run after being accused of murdering his mother, their reaction is initially one of empathy and fascination rather than repulsion. Their decisions to help him cover his tracks, and subsequently protect each other, have ramifications that will last for the rest of their lives.

The result is an engaging character study of Japanese teenagers facing the pressures of Japanese society - observing familial obligations, meeting cram school demands, avoiding perverts on the train - and suddenly being confronted with a situation none of them has the maturity to handle. Particularly interesting is Kirino's portrait of the teenage boy as the fugitive whose grip on reality unravels before our eyes.

I have two objections to the novel.
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20 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Steve Koss VINE VOICE on July 24, 2008
Format: Hardcover
It is difficult to imagine what the Japanese reading audience makes of Natsuo Kirino's dark, nihilistic portrayals of her native country, but her success there as a mystery writer suggests that they must find in her work a compelling mirror of themselves. However, Ms. Kirino's bleak, female-centered representation of Japanese society in OUT, GROTESQUE, and now REAL WORLD creates a milieu at least as horrifying as any of the bloody, heartless actions performed by her characters. Her only three novels so far to be translated into English may feature cruel murders and shocking dismemberments, but for many Western readers, inscrutable Japan may well be her books' most terrifying character.

As she did in OUT, her first novel to be translated into English, Ms. Kirino centers her attention in REAL WORLD on four female friends. This time, however, her focus shifts from the adult world (the four lead characters in OUT were all night shift workers at a box lunch factory) to that of adolescent teens in the summer before their senior years of high school. The four girls are teen archetypes: Toshi the straight arrow, Terauchi the intellectual, Yuzan the boyish lesbian not yet quite out of the closet, and Kirarin the secretively adventuresome one. Cram school and study sessions to prepare for their upcoming college entrance exams weigh heavily upon them, as oppressive and enveloping as summer humidity.

Each girl faces the uncertainties of young adulthood with trepidation - college, or not; dreary life with an office lady career and marriage to a salary man, or something less stultifying than their parents' lives; remaining a virgin, or hooking up; accepting one's sexual identity, or conforming.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By R. A. Stone on August 20, 2008
Format: Hardcover
"Real World" is not just a book about Japan and young Japanese people, it is, in fact a written semi-fictional recording of modern-day Japan as it really has become these days. I should know, I live in Tokyo. I have lived here over 15 years and I have seen it all change so very much. And these days young Japanese are just like Worm and Toshi in so many ways, and THAT is what make this so book so significant and horrifying! Also Kirino is right on the mark with her portrayals of Japanese brainwashed college students, teachers, parents and the overkill 'Authority Rules' group mind that is destroying young individual students before they can even graduate. Get this book and read it. You may not believe some of it, but, believe me, its all too true. Five stars.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By C.J. Hustwick VINE VOICE on May 1, 2010
Format: Paperback
Like so much Japanese "literature", what we have here are extremely perceptive observations about the modern world and its transgressions, the moral quagmire of disaffected city-dwellers, and a search for meaningful "world" in a hopelessly fragmented society. It's all pretty heady, interesting stuff I suppose, but "Real World" is a bleak book about self-absorbed, nihilistic Japanese teenagers who despise conventionality and embrace a pathetic, odious murderer.

The plot revolves around the absolutely horrific crime of matricide and a small click of girls who wind up becoming "groupies" of the kid who smashed in his mom's head with a baseball bat. Sound pleasant? There are certainly some interesting details about how Japanese teenagers view their social "worlds" as being artificial constructs, and long for a transcendental experience to elevate them out of their monotony.

Unfortunately, for all of this oft-repeated metaphysics -- there is scarcely any plot or momentum in the book. It consists of chapter after chapter of first-person testimonials from the girls and the obnoxious murderer himself, about how this has played into their own feelings of isolation and hatred of modern society. Kirino's teenagers are all kind of superficial and boring, even if they have a certain gloss of verisimilitude. The one that comes across the most like the author herself, Terauchi, is of course also the most brilliant observer of the human condition and dishes out some philosophy on true acts of psychological rebellion versus merely superficial acts of hatred and revenge. But it's not a whole lot to chew on for a reader that's slogged through to 150 pages. Ugh.

On one level, this book is a trenchant if depressing portrayal of a lost generation. But honestly, it's a very unbalanced book, tiresome to get through, and ultimately about a repulsive subject. Happy to put it down.
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