Book Girl and the Suicidal Mime
by Mizuki Nomura
Review by Cathy Green
Yen Press Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9780316076906
Date: 27 July 2010 List Price $8.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
When Konoha Inoue was in middle school, he won a writing contest and had his novel published. It became a runaway bestseller and made a lot of money. On the down side, he'd written it as a joke under a female pseudonym and thus became a media sensation as the sensitive, talented girl who was too shy to give interviews. Konoha had trouble coping with the stress of his fame, and had a mini nervous breakdown.
When Book Girl And The Suicidal Mime opens, Konoha is enrolled in high school and happy to be a nobody who fades into the woodwork. The only person he really interacts with is the head of the literary club, Touko Amano, nicknamed Tohko, the book girl of the title. Tohko is no ordinary girl. She's a goblin who feeds on the written word. There are a number of scenes early on where Nomura combines literary criticism with foodie language to comedic effect. Because she needs a constant stream of writing off which to feed, but can't eat the school library without blowing her cover as an ordinary school girl, Tohko drafted Konoha into her literary club, consisting of just the two of them, and every day after school she commands him to write improv stories based a series of words she gives him which she then reads and eats.
When Konoha's writings are no longer enough, and Tohko's sweet tooth gets the better of her, she advertises to the school that the literary society will write love letters in exchange for a report on the progress of the resulting successful romance. As a result, Konoha is forced to write love letters for Chia Takeda to Shuji Kataoka, a boy on the archery team. At this point the reader might be expecting a Cyrano story. The reader would be very wrong, as events take a much, much darker turn. For one thing, Konoha is concerned about being able to write meaningful love letter, because he worries that he does not actually have real feeling but instead is some sort of monster who has learned to imitate the real feelings that others experience. This is a recurring theme in the story and related to a real world author, Osamu Dazai whose writings about alienation are used to great effect by Nomura.
The characters in the story, even those claiming to not feel emotion, actually seem to be having some pretty strong emotional reactions to the world around them. Given the emotional baggage some of the characters are dealing with, this is no surprise. Also, the characters are mostly teenagers, who tend to feel everything strongly. In the afterward, Nomura uses the phrases “bittersweet comedy” and “warmly despondent” to describe Book Girl And The Suicidal Mime, and those are accurate descriptors. The story contains both tragic and comedic moments and at only 178 pages can easily be read in one sitting, which the reader probably will want to do as Nomura ratchets up the tension quite a bit as the story progresses.
According to the Yen Press website (http://www.yenpress.com) this book is the first in Mizuki Nomura's Bungaku Shoujo novel series, and I am looking forward to future volumes in the series.