For general information on this novel: Chain Mail entry
This review is for Chain Mail: Addicted to You, a standalone novel written by Hiroshi Ishizaki. The English edition was released in January 2007 by Tokyopop.
First things first: Chain Mail is not really a light novel–at least not according to the typical requirements when determining whether a book is one or not. That said, it’s a work of young adult fiction from Japan that’s been translated into English, and was a part of Tokyopop’s lineup of books that were predominantly composed of light novels. It’s also quite easy to imagine Chain Mail working well as a school-setting anime, albeit a more serious one than is perhaps typical.
Chain Mail deals with four junior high school girls who each have trouble fitting in and connecting with others in the hectic world of modern Tokyo. Via their cell phones, however, they manage to create their own fictional world to turn to as they write out an online story that gives each of them a separate role: the young heroine, her stalker, her tutor/love interest, and a policewoman investigating the stalker case. Thus we have a story within a story driving the plot, which involves learning about each of the real-life girls, as well as a series of events that gradually begins to emulate the thriller that they’re writing.
All in all it’s a compelling read, and a difficult book to set aside when the worlds of reality and fiction begin to overlap. The prose is translated well, and I found it especially impressive that the voice of each of the main characters–both in their outlook of the world as well as their individual writing abilities–managed to get across quite clearly and feel realistic of a teenage experience. I felt I could relate to each one of them to some degree at least, and liked how the book handled their relationships with each other as well as with various classmates and family members that affect their day-to-day lives.
The story gives a lot to reflect on, particularly in the final act when a number of plot twists bring to light several interesting revelations about certain characters. Chain Mail will appeal to everyone looking for a suspenseful drama told in one volume, and will even provide a bit of extra insight in Japanese school life that may be of particular interest to anime fans looking for a more realistic take on the setting. Used paperbacks are currently available for dirt cheap online, so at the very least this book should be easy to pick up at this point.
Cho’s Rating: Strongly Recommended