The stories in each volume of Book Girl are self-contained, fill the reader in on important character traits and could stand alone fairly well, but even in this second book there’s a lot of development hinging on hints and background from Book Girl and the Suicidal Mime. I’d recommend starting there.
As with the first book, Book Girl and the Famished Spirit features self-styled “book girl” Tohko (a literature loving and eating goblin in schoolgirl form) and her force recruited book club junior Konoha. His job is to write Tohko snacks, and occasionally unravel strange events stemming from requests left in the club’s personal mailbox.
Describing the series’ concept and main characters is a bit of a problem because it makes the books sound different in tone and approach than what they are. Tohko’s “unusual” appetite is largely just a character trait in a sense – the stories at this point do not center around it nor explain what she is. Her love of literature is much more relevant. Also the absurdity and strangeness of the premise might seem to indicate light, whimsical tales. Not so.
FAIR WARNING – while extremely well written, compelling, and laced with subtle touches of humor, the Book Girl series is incredibly dark and deals with very heavy themes.
Creepy doesn’t even begin to describe the events Tohko and Konoha get caught up in this time, and it starts with a disturbing opening page description of an unknown character deciding to kill someone. A few pages of prologue follow recounting Konoha’s disastrous brush with fame in the past and the specters that still haunt him. It’s done in wonderfully direct fashion and before the fist chapter has even begun Nomura reintroduced the main character, discussed his personal demons in a way that ties to the themes of this particular story, and established a gripping, chilling atmosphere that will continue throughout the book.
Strange notes in the club mailbox and the possibility of a ghostly presence are only the beginning. As Tohko and Konoha approach an answer from different angles they’ll each run afoul of distinct, unusual personalities and mysterious happenings. The supporting cast contains a good mix of familiar faces from the first book and newcomers, and is used remarkably well to build a multilayered mystery that gets scarier and more dangerous the more it unravels. The suspense elements are nicely done, with some pieces falling into place as the reader goes and some vital connections remaining elusive until they are explained. The clues are in place though, and the author “plays fair” with the storyline and the readers.
There is again a nice literary tie in to the themes and progression of the plot which is fully understandable even if you haven’t read the associated works.
The writing flows well, is dripping with emotion and really establishes the proper feeling and atmosphere for the story. This is a great accomplishment both on the part of the author and the translator. The descriptions are quite detailed in parts but I never felt like the pace suffered. If fact I found the story moved along at quite a good clip while still fully conveying what was happening at any given time.
Despite being quite unsettled at times, I was very impressed with Book Girl and the Famished Spirit. But know what you’re getting into before reading. This is a very odd series that meanders a little sometimes, hits hard and isn’t afraid to deal with dark, depressing topics. What’s done with it all is top notch so if you can handle the caveats I mentioned I highly recommend checking out this strange duo’s adventures.