Out / Real World, by Natsuo Kirino

Out: Five stars, read in June 2016.
Real World: Three stars, read in June 2016.

I read Out first, and it was really fantastic. It’s cataloged as a mystery, which I suppose it is, but it isn’t the usual format: In this case you’re following along with the people who committed the crimes, and they’re certainly not portrayed as villains. They’re a group of women who work together on the night shift in a factory, and when one of them kills her husband, the consequences affect them all in drastic ways. I loved Masako’s character in particular—she’s the ringleader—but all the characters were incredibly relatable, even the most disturbing or unlikable ones. The story arc and character development are excellent, and I have to say, I love how it ended.

Kirino writes teenagers surprisingly well in Real World, which is to say that all five of the teenage protagonists were spectacularly self-absorbed, even delusional, and a little hard to follow. There’s a murder in this book too, but a much less understandable one, and the way they all deal with it was incomprehensible to me at times. Being inside their brains was like being surrounded by fun house mirrors, and the murky existential subject matter—all their musings on what the “real world” is, what adults expect of them, what it means for something to be “irreparable”—didn’t help.

I read all of Real World in one morning, which was nice, but it didn’t stick with me the way Out did (I loved it and will certainly read it again at some point). I’m glad I read Out first, because, although I did like Real World, I wonder if I may have lost interest if I’d read it first. I’ve found a library near me that owns both Grotesque and The Goddess Chronicle, and I’m looking forward to picking those up the next time I’m there.

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