Book Girl 02: Book Girl and the Famished Spirit

September 3, 2011

Mizuki Nomura – Yen Press – 2011 – 16 volumes
this is a novel

I’ve really been getting into these light novels lately. I hope that Yen’s been doing okay with them, I know they’re notoriously hard to market. Hopefully they’ve been finding their way into the right hands.

I liked the first novel in this series well enough, but not enough to rush out and buy the second novel. I thought I’d give it another try, though, just to see if the second volume grabbed me any harder.

I still like the basic set-up: Tohko, the book girl, consumes books instead of food, the stories provide the sorts of rich flavors that food does not. The narrator is the only other member of the literature club, a boy named Konoha. Konoha wrote a best-selling novel when he was in junior high, but the experience was so emotionally scarring that he vows never to write another novel. Konoha and Tohko solve mysteries as the literature club. It’s a cute set-up.

Unfortunately, it’s the mysteries I tend to have trouble with. This time around, Tohko fears a ghost is putting notes in the Book Club’s “problems” box, and a stake-out one night reveals a very mysterious girl in an old-style school uniform is the culprit. But the problem is, this girl swears she’s dead. Except she also attends the school as an emaciated upperclassman. The story goes in many different directions… that the girl is abused by her uncle, that the girl has multiple personality disorder, and that the girl is possessed by the spirit of her dead mother. It’s not until the final pages that the whole thing becomes clear, and it’s Wuthering Heights that puts everything in perspective this time, the way No Longer Human did last time.

I admit, I love the way that the mysteries follow the structure of famous works of literature, and yet that doesn’t give anything away about the mysteries presented in Book Girl.

The problem for me is that… hmm. Part of it is that the tone is a little mixed. On one hand, the scenes involving Konoha at school with Tohko and other classmates are just like a regular shounen rom-com. There’s some humor, and he interacts with everyone just as normal. But then the mysteries are usually unbearably dark tragedies, and it’s hard for me to reconcile the two, even if it’s not Konoha and Tohko that are directly involved in the tragedies.

The other problem is that the tragedy seems a little forced. I was disappointed when I got to the end of this book. I give the writing a lot of credit. For some reason, I accepted the fact that this emaciated girl lived with her uncle in an otherwise deserted mansion. It wasn’t easy to forgive it the fact that none of the characters seemed alarmed when it became obvious that her uncle abused and starved her, or made any sort of move to put her into protective custody. But the ending. The ending just went completely off the deep end. Her uncle’s true role. What he hoped to accomplish. What the girl wanted from her uncle. The convenient way her father and aunt died. The convoluted lengths it went to in order to stick close to the structure of Wuthering Heights. The fact that all of it was spelled out in the end, and almost impossible to pick up on throughout the course of the novel.

I really liked this book, and I thought it was better than that.

One other problem I had was that the parts with Konoha were the most interesting for me, but he’s a minor character in his own story. He plays almost no role save that of observer. The way he keeps stepping into this stuff also becomes increasingly unlikely.

Having said that, I liked it. I thought it was an interesting book. Again though, it didn’t grab me, but I’ll probably keep reading other books in the series. They do have an interesting structure, and most of the annoyances are minor, despite my complaints.

I’m hoping that the next volume will bring something a little different, or maybe more about Tohko and Konoha. I do like that a little bit more about each is revealed in every novel, though.

And after that, I will leave you with a true story: In case you are unfamiliar, one of the main characters in this series is a girl who can’t taste regular food, but eats books instead, saying that each story has its own rich flavor. So, I work at a used bookstore. The day after I started this novel, I was at work and fighting off a migraine. I started thinking about the plot of this series, and the thought of eating the books that our customers bring in repulsed me so much that I finally threw up and just went home.

Moral: Don’t let your cats pee on your books, then make me touch them.

And there’s your TMI for the day.

2 Responses to “Book Girl 02: Book Girl and the Famished Spirit”

  1. TMI indeed. Thanks for that. Wow. Hope you felt better.

    I like the way Sean Gaffney reviewed the most recent volume at Manga Bookshelf. He seems to pick up on a lot of the same things I like. If you haven’t read his review, it might give you a different way to look at the books that might let you enjoy them even more. :)

  2. Connie Says:

    Thanks for pointing me in the direction of a different take. I want to like this book, and I know it’s probably just a matter of me reading it with the wrong mindset, or looking for the wrong things in it. I have the third one, and am probably going to read it within the next week or so, so hopefully I can approach it differently.

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