[Review] Heaven by Mieko Kawakami

3 Things About This Book
| Exploration of Teenage Violence and its Effects on the Victims | The Choice of Normality VS The Choice of Alienation | Simple, Understanding Prose that Conveys the Characters’ Pain |

Heaven by Mieko Kawakami
Published: 2021 by Picador
Genre(s): Asian Literature, Contemporary, Coming-of-Age
Book Depository

A painful and understanding exploration of teenage violence and its effects on the victims, Heaven follows a teenager who’s severely bullied for his lazy eye and his friendship with another victim of bullying, Kojima who chose to be “dirty” to remain connected to her father. Both of them quietly suffer through their bullies’ attentions, but Kojima has a different view of their silent suffering. She believes that instead of fear, it’s a show of true strength and that they’re instruments to teach their bullies a lesson. All of this—the bullying, the passive acceptance, the turned eyes are part and resultant of greater issues nurtured and sustained by society.

So, with its simple and direct prose, there’s no hiding the disturbing reality of how far a bully will go with their victim and how bullies don’t really need a reason to hurt another. We also see the ups and downs of a friendship born from mutual terror and pain, and the conflicting ideologies of the narrator, Kojima and Momose, one of the narrator’s bullies.

However, though I appreciate the covered angles, there wasn’t enough depth. Sure, I felt for the characters. I wanted them happy and unhurt, and the bullies punished, but I also wanted more because truthfully, everything, especially the social commentary, felt surface-level. I had hoped for there to be consequences or a more well-connected ending as it feels like there are scenes missing. In fact, the pacing of some events was a little off throughout the story, but the off-ness of those wasn’t as jarring as the sudden jump from the end of Chapter Eight to the events in Chapter Nine. For me, it was this jump that cemented how Heaven reads more like it was only showing us a specific period of the narrator’s life and no more.

Nevertheless, I do like the author’s ability to include conflicting perspectives on matters without actually siding with either. It might not be as satisfying of a read due to this, but I enjoyed the freedom to read the story from a more-grey-leaning standpoint.



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