Grotesque (Book - Natsuo Kirino)

Aside from offering a dark and delicious glimpse inside the walls of a prestigious Japanese high school, where academic over-achievement, shameless bullying, and fascistically proper accessorizing rule the day, Grotesque, Natsuo Kirino’s second novel, is a disappointment. The book revolves around the brutal murders of the nameless narrator’s beautiful sister, Yuriko, and plain-Jane classmate Kazue, both of whom work as prostitutes. But that provocative premise fails to offset the novel’s need for a pitiless editor wielding a large machete. Translated with mixed results by Rebecca Copeland — the voice of the unlikable narrator swings between pomposity and cliché-laden flippancy — the story of the girls’ murders gets lost in the too-expansive telling. Still, for those intrigued by the hidden workings of women’s lives in Japan, Grotesque might be worth the wade.