Book Girl is a series of 16 light novels written by Mizuki Nomura that were published in Japan between 2006 and 2011. The first 8 novels deal with the main story while the rest are side stories or spin-offs. As of this writing, 4 of the novels have been translated into English by Yen Press: Book Girl and the Suicidal Mime, Book Girl and the Famished Spirit, Book Girl and the Captive Fool, and Book Girl and the Corrupted Angel.
The premise of Book Girl sounds like a typical high school drama suited for anime. Konoha Inoue is a student in his first year of high school. Secretly, he was a best-selling author, but has since given up on writing. One day he meets a beautiful girl named Tohko Amano in the grade above him who forces him to join the literature club and write impromptu stories for her. That’s not the strange thing about Tohko, however, when she reads Konoha’s stories, she literally gobbles them up. Konoha has no problem dealing with a story-eating goblin, but when Tohko decides to set up a love help-box, Konoha finds himself tangled up in a murder mystery that seems all too familiar.
One of the difficulties in describing the Book Girl series is that each volume represents a story within a story within a story. If I didn’t know any better, I would have thought that Nomura got the idea from Inception, but Book Girl was published years before Inception. On the surface, Book Girl appears to be a comical high school drama that always leads into a murder mystery with each volume. Each mystery is actually a story within a story; a tribute to a famous literary work. The first volume of Book Girl brought up the novel “No Longer Human” by Osamu Dazai and had many parallels with Dazai’s story. Similarly, the second volume mentions Emily Brontë’s “Wuthering Heights” numerous times and follows the events of that story almost exactly.
Unbeknownst to the reader for the first two volumes, though some hints are given, there is also a greater story being built up that encompasses the entire series and ties together the individual volumes. While a story within a story within a story sounds great, it is perhaps one of the downfalls of Book Girl. By the third volume, the reader must follow 3 different stories: the “tribute” story (ie: No Longer Human and Wuthering Heights), the parallel story that is occurring in the volume, and the overall story that must be pieced together across volumes. For the average Joe who hasn’t read the novels that Nomura brings up in Book Girl, it can become difficult to remember just what is going on in each story.
Nomura’s presentation of Book Girl is at times cryptic, adding to the mystery. Every chapter begins with an excerpt from a diary or letters and offer insight into the feelings and emotions of a certain character. The mystery comes first in deciphering what each excerpt means, and secondly, in determining who wrote it. Those who have read the works that Nomura based Book Girl on may have an easier time piecing everything together considering there is always a parallel character in Nomura’s story for every character in the “tribute” story for that volume.
While Book Girl does become a bit hard to follow with events from different stories being presented at once, it is a great read for any book worms out there. Those versed in classic world literature will find a unique young adult take on some old favourites while for many others, it’s a great introduction to more advanced literatures. For those who read Book Girl to the end, there is an anime movie based on the last volume of the main story about Konoha’s past. It’s a nice treat for anyone who loved the story but couldn’t visualize some of the scenes.