For general information on this series: Book Girl entry
This review is for the fifth volume of Book Girl by Mizuki Nomura (with art by Miho Takeoka). The English edition was released by Yen Press in July 2012, and the entirety of the eight-volume series has made it over.
It’s been a while since my last Book Girl review! The fifth volume of the series is a very special one though, and might actually be my very favorite of the bunch. The first four volumes each worked nicely as self-contained stories–but at the same time they were all setting the stage for the events of The Wayfarer’s Lamentation. This is finally when a certain character appears, and Konoha–our ever-troubled protagonist–must confront his past head-on.
What an emotional ride this volume is! Every time I read this volume, I have a hard time putting it down. The characters are so wonderfully-developed though, and I find myself drawn to every one of them. These characters have personality flaws, they keep dark secrets, and they have made great mistakes. But I seem to find a little of myself in each one of them, so I can’t bring myself to be upset with their shortcomings. They are struggling to better themselves, but the author has a good understanding of how difficult that can be. If you make a chart of an individual’s progress in life, it’s never going to be a straight line going up. We’re always going to have missteps, and sometimes we fall back to square one. That’s what felt like a major theme of this novel–and also perhaps to the book that serves as part of its inspiration, Kenji Miyazawa’s Night of the Milky Way Railway.
As is the case with all the Book Girl volumes, what stands out to me the most here are the characters. They have such depth to them, and simply feel a lot more human to me than the characters of most other books I’ve read. But perhaps I simply find myself relating to the characters a lot more than other readers would? I especially like the protagonist Konoha, who is so atypical for a protagonist in a YA series (and especially for light novels available in English). I just want to root for him, no matter how much he stumbles.
Regardless, I do find the novel extremely well-written. Mizuki Nomura really has a way with words, and I believe the translator Karen McGillicuddy deserves high praise too. Everything reads smoothly, and the emotion always comes through powerfully. There is also a clear love for literature displayed in these Book Girl stories, and I particularly appreciate how they show the characters relating classic works to their own lives. When I read a book, my experience with the story will be different from the experience you have when you read it.
But my experience with this book was wonderful! I hope more people will find the time to experience it too. Do be sure to read the first four volumes before this one though–the impact of nearly every scene won’t be as strong, otherwise.
Cho’s Rating: Strongly Recommended