BookDragon Books for the Diverse Reader

The Flowers of Evil (vols. 8-9) by Shuzo Oshimi, translated by Paul Starr

Flowers of Evil 8-9While he’s not exactly Mr. Popularity at his new school, Takao Kasuga is gingerly settling into his uprooted life far from the small town of Gunma where he was involved in so many shameful, difficult, frustrating, violent experiences. His favorite book, Baudelaire’s The Flowers of Evil, once more brings him closer together with a new classmate, this time, Aya Tokiwa. Clearly one of the school’s ‘beautiful people,’ she keeps her literary obsessions well hidden under her envious public profile, but finds Kasuga to be quite the sympathetic fellow book lover.

As volume 8 opens, Kasuga is in Tokiwa’s room looking through her well-stocked shelves when her boyfriend unexpectedly arrives. Kasuga finds himself apologizing to Koji Fujiwara – “I didn’t mean to cause any misunderstanding” – but already Fujiwara is dismissing his suspicions along with Kasuga: “You don’t have the guts for anything like that.” The threesome go off together to “the usual place,” a clubhouse for the most popular kids. The evening could have ended very badly – Tokiwa walks out, Fujiwara rants – but before Tokiwa and Kasuga part, she reveals she has novel intentions and Kasuga promises he’ll be her first reader.

By volume 9, Tokiwa and Fujiwara have “made up already,” and Fujiwara is ready to apologize even to Kasuga for his brutish behavior. Meanwhile, Tokiwa’s writerly confidence seems to be waning, but Kasuga “absolutely” insists her story is good: “You’ve gotta finish that novel,” he repeatedly encourages. Even as his attachment to Tokiwa grows – far beyond being her cheerleading reader – Kasuga is haunted by Nanako Saeki’s unexpected, chance reappearance and her warning observations: “Are you gonna make her unhappy too?” As the first year at the new school is about to end, Kasuga is literally crying tears of joy: “Is it okay for me to be so happy?” But then the proverbial telephone rings, and the desperate message from the other end threatens to drag up the past …

Within the series thus far, these latest two installments are certainly the gentler, kinder standouts (oh, those muted watercolors!). But the lull is about to be over, given the deathly cliffhanger at volume 9’s close… the title ends with “Evil,” after all. Steel yourself: volume 10 debuts next month.

Readers: Young Adult, Adult

Published: 2014 (United States)


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