Book Girl novels

aka “Bungaku Shoujo”, “Literature Girl”
Genre: Mystery drama
Score: Excellent

Konoha and Tohko are the book club. Konoha would like nothing more than to live without incident, but Tohko’s nosy and reckless: she sets up a mailbox labelled: “To fulfil your love, send us a letter”. From there they get pulled into one strange mystery after another.

Tohko has a secret: she’s a goblin who eats books. Though she can eat human food, she can’t taste any of it. Instead, the only real sustenance for her is the written word. She enlists Konoha (a published author) to writer her short stories to munch on every day, and she’ll then describe her sensation of tasting a story in simile of how she imagines real food must tastes. Konoha has secrets in his past as well – in fact, there are secrets all round for them to unravel.

What’s surprising about each of the stories is how they get dark so quickly. From simple requests, the book club members get pulled into matters of life and death, revenge, jealousy, madness and honour. The thread connecting them all is the power of the written word, the connection between reader and author – and not always in a good way. The cases tackle some very serious themes, and even when each case is solved it remains deeply unsettling. It also sets itself apart in having no simple characters: whether bad guys or minor characters, they all have complex motivations of their own, and unlike some mystery stories they aren’t defused once the secrets are revealed.

There are a couple of anime adaptations of this, a film and a short series. They seem to have kept the flavour quite well but the story has been changed – and the film adapts the fifth book in the series – so I couldn’t watch more than a few minutes of either for fear of spoiling later books. I suggest sticking to the novels. I also suggest avoiding other reviews or you’re likely to read spoilers.