From Japan comes one of the strangest titles for anything ever. Our subject for today is a novel by Yukito Ayatsuji called Another. “Another what?” people may say when seeing the title. When you actually read the book you’ll understand why the title actually makes sense. You’ll also experience one of the the more interesting Japanese YA horror novels to ever be written.
15 year old Yoichi Sakakibara has moved to the small town of Yomiyama to live with his grandparents for a year due to his dad needing to work in India. While staying in a hospital getting a collapsed lung treated he comes across a mysterious girl, Mei Misaki, in the hospital with an eyepatch. When he starts school at North Yomi Middle he notices that everyone in his class completely ignores Meil so he decides to be the only nice person. Little does he know that by doing so he starts a string of gruesome accidental deaths associated with a curse in his class.
This book is pretty much a YA horror novel. Unlike a lot of YA horror novels this is pretty gory and disturbing. The gory parts are some of the deaths (a girl falling down a flight of steps and landing on the pointy bit of her umbrella.) They’re not there just to be shocking or gory; they actually fit with the person’s situation. They are pretty clever, come to think of it except for one (a heart attack.)
As for the story itself, it’s a lot more mystery than horror. The mystery is that the book keeps you guessing why everyone ignores Mei and if she is alive or even real. It’s doe pretty well; nothing’s forced, the build up is there and it will keep you turning the pages.
One of the things that make a good book is the characters. Ayatsuji makes it easy to like both Yoichi and Mei. Their interactions together are absolutely spot on. The things they say to each other, the way they interact, is about as close as literary chemistry as you can get. One good thing is that this relationship is more like solving a big mystery than a romance. Of course, of this was written in America there would be some kind of unneeded romantic subplot between the, The story works just fine without one.
There are a few problems though. The ending is kind of a letdown and will leave you scratching your head. Also, you have to admit that all of this bad stuff would’ve been easily avoided if the characters actually told Yoichi about the curse and not make him socialize with Mei. It may sound like a minor nitpick and there wouldn’t be a story if they did that, but it’s one of those things that kinda bothers some people.
Another may have an odd name, but the story, characters and excellent execution make this a must read. Just don’t expect a great ending.