Book Girl and the Suicidal Mime is the first volume in the eight volume "Book Girl" light novel series by Mizuki Nomura. Originally published in Japan from 2006-2008, it is currently being translated and released by Yen Press. Four volumes are available currently with new ones coming out on a six month schedule. The series is told from the point of view of Konoha Inoue, a 16-year-old second-year high school student. Two years ago his first novel became a best seller, but the world thought it was written by a girl, so he's never really gotten credit. The embarrassment of the situation followed by a personal tragedy made him swear of writing ever again. Until a year ago he met Tohko Amano who is one year his senior, president of the then one member literature club, and a goblin who lives by eating the written word. According to Tohko, handwritten words are the tasty, so after Konoha stumbled on her secret she bullied him into becoming a member of her club where he spends each afternoon writing her "snacks", sweet love stories when they are getting along, bitter-tasting tales with bad writing that breaks all the grammar rules when he's annoyed with her.
The novel starts the year after they met, with their back story filled in through Konoha's internal ruminations. In the present, a fellow student, Chia Takeda, has come to their club begging for help. It seems Tohko set up a "mailbox" offering help with love, so Konoha is roped into writing her love letters to woo an archery student, Shuji Kataoka. Konoha enjoys writing the letters and finds himself cheering for Chia's love, until things take a strange turn. No one seems to have ever heard of Shuji, despite Chia's claims that he is a popular archery student and always has girls flocking around him. So just who is Chia giving Konoha's letters too? And just where is Shuji Kataoka?
Konoha could be a pitiable character, but instead he is a likeable fellow I can't help but sympathize with. He has had some painful incidents in his life that he's still not fully recovered from, and it tells in his reactions to the world around him. It quickly became clear to me that the comfortable relationship he shares with Tohko is unusual, and seems to have had a healing affect on him some. Tohko is also an interesting character, the way she gets so into both talking about and eating books. With the story told totally from Konoha's point-of-view, we're left wondering why she choose him and what she is thinking during the times he glimpses a sorrowful expression on her face.
As a bonus, the novel features quite a bit of discussion on various novels and authors, both American and Japanese. One in particular, No Longer Human by Osamu Dazai (which is available in English ), is a core aspect of this novel that plays into the story as a whole and in some ways controls the others actions. These discussions provide both an interesting take of the various novels mentioned and a look into Japanese literature as a whole. I wonder if future volumes will similarly have a core novel that intertwines and speaks to the central plot of the story.
All in all, if it isn't clear by now, I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. I usually don't like first-person POV novels. I rarely read them and have more than once rejected a book because of it. But I bought this one blind based just on the blurb on Yen Press' site. It was such an interesting set up - a book eating demon and a former novelist. I'm glad I gave it a chance, because it is really quite good! The set up might make it seem like it would be a comedy, but it is really more of a drama with some darker elements, including the hints of Konoha's past. Interspersed throughout the novel are bits of letters, dark lonely letters than indicate the writer is in agony. The author of the letters is unclear at first, but as you read along it seems to become clearer, but does it really? Nomura spins a wonderfully engrossing tale that had me forcing myself to put the book down long enough to sleep (work and all). I finished it in two days though and am already eagerly anticipating the next volume, Book Girl and the Famished Spirit. Yen Press' translation seemed clean to me and I can't recall any real grammatical or structural errors.