Book Girl and the Famished Spirit

Author: Mizuki Nomura
Illustrator: Miho Takeoka

Translator: Karen McGillicuddy
U.S. publisher: Yen Press
ISBN: 9780316076920
Released: January 2011
Original release: 2006

Book Girl and the Famished Spirit is the second book in Mizuki Nomura’s sixteen-volume light novel series Book Girl, illustrated by Miho Takeoka. Originally published in Japan in 2006, the book was released in English in 2011 by Yen Press. Once again, Karen McGillicuddy serves as the translator for the series. I read the first volume, Book Girl and the Suicidal Mime not too long ago and absolutely loved it. The book more or less made me an instant fan and so there was no question that I would be picking up Book Girl and the Famished Spirit. I am still quite fond of the premise of a “book girl,” a yōkai that devours the written word instead of food. Even though this story element is often relegated to the background, it is still important and I find it to be utterly delightful. Because I enjoyed Book Girl and the Suicidal Mime so much, I was really looking forward to reading Book Girl and the Famished Spirit.

Despite insisting she doesn’t believe in them, Tohko, the self-proclaimed “book girl,” is afraid of ghosts. Normally this wouldn’t be such a problem, but someone has been leaving encoded messages in the literature club’s mailbox. Messages that seem to be similar to the ones rumored to be left all over the school by a wandering ghost. But whether a prank pulled by a classmate or a legitimate spirit (book girls exist after all, so why not ghosts?), one thing is clear—the notes are asking for help. Tohko intends to investigate the incidents, assuming that Konoha, her underclassman and the only other member of the literature club, will be willing to assist her. But he’s reluctant, especially as the notes become more threatening. He hopes that she will just leave the whole matter alone.

While Book Girl and the Suicidal Mime was heavily influenced by Osamu Dazai’s No Longer Human, Book Girl and the Famished Spirit takes its inspiration from Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights. In some ways the story is actually more cruel than the original. If you’ve never read Wuthering Heights, don’t worry. If there’s one thing that Tohko likes to do besides eating literature, it’s talking about it and she provides a very nice summarization of the novel. Throughout the series she frequently launches into tirades about books, even at seemingly inappropriate moments. This is part of her charm although it can come across as tangential. Nomura is constantly dropping references to various works and authors, some more well known than others. But my favorite thing about Book Girl and the Famished Spirit was the introduction of Ryuto. I almost hope that he also turns out to be some sort of yōkai, but I’d still be happy even if it turns out he’s just simply a masochist.

For the most part, Book Girl and the Famished Spirit can stand fairly well on its own and it’s not absolutely necessary to have read Book Girl and the Suicidal Mime. The main mystery is almost completely separate with only a few minor references to the previous one. However, more information is given about Konoha and Tohko. To be honest, it is their backgrounds that intrigue me the most at this point. Konoha’s past in particular is slowly being introduced, piece by piece, within the context of the incidents he and Tohko get caught up in. It’s an interesting but effective technique. Although I enjoyed Book Girl and the Famished Spirit, I didn’t like it nearly as well as I did the first book. I’m not really sure why; maybe it’s just that I happen to prefer No Longer Human over Wuthering Heights. Regardless, I still intend to continue the series with the next volume, Book Girl and the Captive Fool.

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